Labels Don’t Deter Poor Food Choices
New research reveals most American consumers read food labels for nutritional information. Many, however, do not let that get in the way of what they’re going to buy.
According to a poll by AP-Ipsos, 44 percent of consumers will still buy a product after reading a label that tells them the item is loaded with calories, fat and sugar.
Loren Cook, a consumer from Marysville, Washington, told The Associated Press she reads labels “to see what I’m getting myself into.” Having done that, Ms. Cook says the
information on labels “doesn’t make my buying decision for me. It’s mostly a curiosity factor.”
Another consumer, Tammy Fultz, of Independence, Kentucky said she checks labels to make better nutrition choices.
Unfortunately, said Ms. Fultz, “none of that really matters. In the end, you still eat way more than you should and exercise way less than you should.”
Researchers say that consumers such as Ms. Cook and Fultz are not unusual.
According to the AP-Ipsos poll, the majority of consumers do read food labels. Reading labels, however, has clearly not translated into healthier eating as roughly two-thirds
of Americans are overweight.
Robert Blendon, professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health, said consumers do read labels. Most, however, do not use the information “as part of a total diet to really lower
Discussion Question: Do you agree that most consumers read food labels and many then make poor nutritional choices anyway? Do you believe, as some do, that
food labels need to be changed to deal more directly with the high level of obesity in the U.S.?
Robert Blendon is among those who believe changes are needed in how products are labeled. While Prof. Blendon doesn’t suggest that new labels will eliminate
obesity in the country, he does think there would be more value if, for example, labels stated the total calories in a package. That way, he contends, consumers wouldn’t be left
to do their own calculations based on the current per serving system.