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Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 107, Issue 3, pp e296–e302 | Cite as

The efficacy of calorie labelling formats on pre-packaged foods: An experimental study among adolescents and young adults in Canada

  • Rachel B. Acton
  • Lana Vanderlee
  • Christine White
  • David HammondEmail author
Quantitative Research
  • 1 Downloads

Abstract

OBJECTIVES: Several countries have proposed changes to calorie labelling on nutrition facts tables (NFTs) on pre-packaged foods. As most research to date has examined general use of NFTs, there is a lack of evidence to guide specific design changes to calorie information on labels. This study examined the efficacy of various calorie labelling formats on recall, comprehension, and consumer preferences for calorie information.

METHODS: Experiments were conducted as part of an online survey with a national sample of 2,008 Canadians aged 16–24. In Task 1, participants were shown one of six labelling formats (e.g., %DV, Traffic Light) with calories in either small or large font, and asked to recall the amount of calories. Task 2 examined comprehension of calories in the context of recommended daily intake (RDI), using the same NFT as in Task 1. Task 3 identified participants’ preferences for labelling formats.

RESULTS: NFTs with calories in large font enhanced calorie recall (p < 0.001). When small font was displayed, the Traffic Light format performed best at improving recall (p < 0.01). With large font, the highest recall was in the Current, RDI and Traffic Light formats (all p < 0.05). Comprehension of servings per RDI was highest in the Infographic format, with no difference by font size (p < 0.001). Respondents preferred the large font calorie condition and the Infographic format (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: Enhancements in visibility and design can improve the efficacy of calorie labelling on pre-packaged foods. The findings have direct implication for proposed changes to calorie labelling on NFTs in Canada and the United States.

Key Words

Nutrition policy health policy food labeling recommended dietary allowances 

Résumé

OBJECTIFS : Dans plusieurs pays, on propose des modifications à l’étiquetage des calories dans les tableaux « Valeur nutritive » (TVN) apposés sur les aliments préemballés. Commela plupart des études publiées jusqu’àmaintenant portent sur l’utilisationgénéraledesTVN,onmanquededonnéesprobantespourguider l’apport de modifications précises à la conception des étiquettes indiquant la teneur en calories. Notre étude porte sur l’efficacité de divers formats d’étiquetage des calories pour ce qui est de lamémorisation et de la compréhension de la teneur en calories et des préférences des consommateurs à cet égard.

MÉTHODE : Nous avons mené des expériences dans le cadre d’un sondage en ligne auprès d’un échantillon national de 2 008 Canadiens de 16 à 24 ans. Durant la tâche no 1, nous avons montré aux participants l’un de six formats d’étiquetage (p. ex., % valeur quotidienne, Feu de signalisation) avec les calories indiquées en petits ou en gros caractères, et nous leur avons demandé de mémoriser le nombre de calories. La tâche no 2 a permis d’examiner la compréhension des calories dans le contexte de l’apport quotidien recommandé (AQR) à l’aide du même TVN que pour la tâche no 1. Durant la tâche no 3, les participants ont indiqué leurs formats d’étiquetage préférés.

RÉSULTATS : Les TVN avec les calories en gros caractères ont amélioré la mémorisation des calories (p < 0,001). Quand les petits caractères étaient affichés, le format Feu de signalisation est celui qui a optimisé la mémorisation (p < 0,01). Avec les gros caractères, la mémorisation a été optimisée avec les formats Actuel, AQR et Feu de signalisation (p < 0,05 dans les trois cas). La compréhension des portions selon l’AQR a été maximisée avec le format Infographique, sans différence attribuable à la taille des caractères (p < 0,001). Les répondants ont préféré les modèles à gros caractères et le format Infographique (p < 0,001).

CONCLUSIONS : Des améliorations à la visibilité et à la conception peuvent améliorer l’efficacité de l’étiquetage des calories sur les aliments préemballés. Nos constatations ont des conséquences directes pour les modifications proposées à l’étiquetage des calories dans les TVN au Canada et aux États-Unis.

Mots Clés

politique nutritionnelle politique sanitaire étiquetage aliments rations alimentaires recommandées 

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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rachel B. Acton
    • 1
  • Lana Vanderlee
    • 1
    • 2
  • Christine White
    • 1
  • David Hammond
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.School of Public Health and Health SystemsUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  2. 2.Department of Nutritional SciencesUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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