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Food Label Claims and Their

Impact on Consumers
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FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition


Linda Verrill, Ph.D.
March 2017
Consumer Use of the Food Label
(From the 2014 FDA Health and Diet Survey)
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• 77% of U.S. adults reported using the Nutrition
Facts label
• 79% of adults reported using the label often or
sometimes when buying a product for the first
time
• Almost nine in ten U.S. adults said they used
claims to make food decisions

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Types of Claims
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FDA Regulates
• Health Claims
o “Calcium-rich foods such as yogurt may reduce the risk of
osteoporosis.”
• Qualified Health Claims
o “Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating
about 2 tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of
coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil. To
achieve this possible benefit, olive oil is to replace a similar amount of
saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a
day. One serving of this product [Name of food] contains [x] grams of
olive oil.”
• Structure-Function Claims
o “Calcium builds strong bones.”
• Nutrient Content Claims
o “Milk is a good source of calcium.”

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How Claims Affect
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Consumers
• Truncation
o Consumers “truncate” information search
• Magic bullet
o Consumers attribute inappropriate nutritional
qualities to the product
• Health-Halos
o Consumers rate products higher on health
qualities not mentioned in the claim

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Preliminary
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FDA Research on Claims
Major Research Questions
Does the presence of a claim on a snack food…
a. reduce nutrient information search (less likely to look at
the Nutrition Facts Label when the product carries a
claim)?
b. increase purchase intent (more likely to buy)?
c. make consumer think the product is healthier?

Verrill, Wood, Cates, Lando, & Zhang. 2017. Vitamin-Fortified Snack Food May Lead Consumers to Make
Poor Dietary Decisions. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 117(3), pg:376-385

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Study Methods
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• Controlled, randomized experimental study with


U.S. Adults age 18 and over
• Web-based consumer panel
• Choice task and Single-product evaluation

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Mock Products
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Comparing Mean Scores Between Snack
Food Products Containing a “Healthy”
Claim and Products with no Claim

Variable
Response
Scale

** ** *

*p < .05
**p < .01

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Comparing Mean Scores Between Snack
Food Products Containing a “Healthy”
Claim and Products with no Claim

**
**
Variable
Response
Scale **

**p < .01

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Summary
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• The food label is an important source of


information for consumers
• Claims on labels have been shown to have
significant impacts on consumer perceptions,
beliefs and behaviors.
• Preliminary work on “healthy” claims indicate
that they may likely have similar effects on
consumers and may influence consumer
choices.
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Thank you!

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Discussion Questions
• How do “healthy” claims influence consumer
perceptions, attitudes, and food-seeking
behaviors?
• Does marketing food as “healthy” result in
better consumer choices?
• How might “healthy” claims be employed to
improve consumer choices and improve public
health?
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