Nutrition Labels Deter High-Fat Food Choices.
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
Food law (Health aspects)
Salad dressings (Labeling)
|Author:||Lang, Susan S.|
|Publication:||Name: Human Ecology Publisher: Cornell University, Human Ecology Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health; Science and technology; Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2001 Cornell University, Human Ecology ISSN: 1530-7069|
|Issue:||Date: Summer, 2001 Source Volume: 29 Source Issue: 3|
|Geographic:||Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States|
AFTER MORE THAN six years of mandatory food labeling, consumers are
becoming savvier about high-fat foods on grocery shelves, says Alan D.
Mathios, associate professor of policy analysis and management. He found
that sales of high-fat dressings significantly declined after mandatory
labeling was instituted, providing evidence that the labels are
influencing the sales of other high-fat foods as well.
To study how nutrition labels affect consumer choices, Mathios conducted a study of supermarket data of salad dressings purchased before and after the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) mandatory labeling law went into effect in 1994. Prior to the label law, all low-fat salad dressings carried nutrition labels, says Mathios, but the vast majority of high-fat dressings didn't.
"We chose to study salad dressings because they were relatively easy to analyze," says Mathios. "The study provides powerful evidence that mandatory nutrition labeling can effectively change consumer choices, suggesting that it may influence purchases of other high-fat foods as well." By studying the bar-code data from supermarket scanners, he found that before the nutrition labeling law, the high-fat, unlabeled salad dressings accounted for almost 75 percent of all salad dressings purchased by the least educated shoppers and almost 50 percent of the salad dressings bought by the most educated shoppers. Supermarket shopper-club applications provided the demographic data. Once the high-fat dressings were required to carry labels indicating their fat content, their sales declined about 5 percent.
Salad dressings vary widely in their amount of fat per serving, ranging from zero grams to up to 20 grams of fat per serving--almost one-third the recommended daily intake of fat for a middle-aged, average-sized woman. "These findings are important because the impact of mandatory nutrition laws on dietary choices has significant policy implications, since five of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States are related to diet," says Mathios.
Mathios collected supermarket scanner data at 20 Wegman's supermarkets before and after mandatory labeling during identical weeks of the year with almost the identical set of products. He studies the effect of information-dissemination policies and regulations on consumer welfare and the roles of advertising, labeling, and marketing in food and nutrition policy.
Mathios' findings were published in the October 2000 issue of Journal of Law and Economics.
|Gale Copyright:||Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.|