More than a thousand words?

by Jeff Gelski
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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – A literature review conducted by the research institute RTI International suggests that including colorful and graphic nutrition information on product packages helps consumers better understand the information. The review appeared on-line Jan. 3 in Nutrition Reviews.

A team of researchers analyzed 38 studies on consumer responses to nutrition labels on the front of food packages. They found when labels incorporated text and color to indicate high, medium or low levels of nutrients, consumers found it easier to interpret those labels than labels that used only numbers, such as grams per serving or percent of Recommended Daily Allowances.

“As standards for nutrition front-of-package and shelf-labeling systems are considered, it is important to know what is most effective in conveying scientifically accurate and useful information to consumers,” said James Hersey, Ph.D., a senior scientist at RTI International, based in Research Triangle Park, and lead author of the study.

The Food and Drug Administration began asking for comments and information about front-of-package nutrition labeling in a notice in the April 29, 2010, Federal Register. The Institute of Medicine on Oct. 20, 2011, issued a report on front-of-package labeling. It said federal agencies should develop a new nutrition rating system with symbols to display on the front of food and beverage packaging that graphically convey calorie counts by serving size and a "point" value showing whether the saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars in the products are below threshold levels.
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