Background New format nutrition information has recently been implemented across UK foods at point of sale in response to EU Regulation 1169/2011. Now mandatory, the increased availability of this information has the potential to reduce obesity and related conditions. Consumer understanding is a known prerequisite of nutrition label use which is associated with healthier diets. This research aimed to undertake the first known systematic review whose objectives were to identify and describe the published educational interventions targeting consumer understanding and use of nutrition label information.
Methods This systematic literature review search aimed to include all published studies, without design or geographic limitation, describing interventions with components of label education (e.g. “how to read labels”. Outcomes needed to measure aspects of consumer comprehension or use of nutrition label information e.g. participant’s ability to accurately read labels, make healthy choices, increase label knowledge, or use. Peer reviewed, empirical, English-Language studies were searched in Medline, PsychInfo, and CINHAL edatabases in March 2015. Search strategies included terms from three elements e.g. “nutrition label information” AND “educational interventions” AND “consumer comprehension”. Narrative analysis is presented here.
Results Database searches returned 4,712 articles. Duplicated and (2,881) and non-relevant studies (1,729) were removed. Full text articles (94) were retrieved and quality appraised using the CASP tool whereby studies with significant risk of bias were removed. Fourteen studies were selected reporting interventions educating participants on “on-pack” display of nutrition label information in Canada, U.S. and Europe (1 study) between 1996 and 2014.
Study populations included school age children, adult shoppers, older adults with diabetes or poor literacy. Intervention types included taught face-to-face sessions, supermarket tours, and one online. Outcome measures and instruments were different across all studies these included self-reported frequency of use or objective assessment of comprehension e.g. assessment during realistic label tasks using a ‘food label literacy’ test. Thirteen of the fourteen studies reported a statistically significant effect of the intervention on improving one or more outcomes of participant label knowledge, understanding, perceptions, use, or awareness. No studies were identified concerning UK nutrition labels, nor nutrition information displayed in online supermarket sites.
Conclusion The educational interventions identified here show generally positive results for improving nutrition information comprehension and use. However, studies are limited and outcomes and measures found to be inconsistent. Further educational intervention evaluation is warranted with UK consumers given the current availability of new nutrition label information on-pack and in online settings.
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