Friday, November 25, 2011

Shoppers ignore health warnings on food ......

We're not dumping the junk! Shoppers ignore health warnings on food and buy whatever they want, study finds

By Claire Bates

Last updated at 4:36 PM on 25th November 2011
Unhealthy choices: Shoppers will regularly ignore health labels on food
Unhealthy choices: Shoppers will regularly ignore health labels on food

Most shoppers ignore nutritional labels labels on food packets and simply buy what they like, a new study claims.

The findings are a blow to the UK government, which has pressurised food manufacturers to display calorie, fat and salt content prominently on packaging so that consumers can make healthier choices.

Schemes include the voluntary 'traffic light system,' which rates how healthy food is by using red, orange or green labels.

Researchers from the Food Labelling to Advance Better Education for Life (FLABEL) investigated 37,000 products in five potentially unhealthy types of food, including biscuits, chilled ready meals and fizzy drinks.

They found Britain had the highest proportion of nutritional information on packaging, with more than 95 per cent including it on the back of packs, and 82 per cent on the front.

However, the research also found that most shoppers understand perfectly well how healthy various foods are with only the bare minimum of nutritional information.

In a further blow to the costly schemes, the authors discovered that people who said they understood or liked the various labelling schemes were happy to ignore them and buy the food they liked best, regardless of how unhealthy it was. 

FLABEL advisor Professor Klaus Grunert, from Aarhus University in Denmark called on food companies to put clear information on the front of packs for maximum impact.

However, he conceded that even this wouldn't make shoppers to dump the junk, saying: 'Motivation was a major factor affecting the impact of nutrition labels on the choices made by consumers.
'When prompted, consumers were able to identify which products were healthier, but they did not use this information to choose which product they prefer. 

'A lack of consumer motivation, therefore, is one factor standing in the way of healthy food choices resulting from nutrition labelling.' 

He added: 'The FLABEL research shows the most promising option for increasing consumers' attention to, and use of, nutrition information on food labels, is to provide information on key nutrients and energy on the front of the pack, in a consistent way.  

'Complementing this information with a health logo can also increase attention to, and use of, the information, especially when the consumer is under time pressure.  

'Similarly, use of colour coding can increase attention and use in certain situations, although the effects of both are not strong.'  

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