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Public Health Nutr. 2012 May;15(5):783-91. doi: 10.1017/S1368980011003508. Epub 2012 Jan 27.

Effects of alternative label formats on choice of high- and low-sodium products in a New Zealand population sample.

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Edgar National Centre for Diabetes & Obesity Research, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, PO Box 913, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand.



Dietary sodium reduction is a cost-effective public health intervention to reduce chronic disease. In response to calls for further research into front-of-pack labelling systems, we examined how alternative sodium nutrition label formats and nutrition claims influenced consumers' choice behaviour and whether consumers with or without a diagnosis of hypertension differed in their choice patterns.


An anonymous online experiment in which participants viewed ten choice sets featuring three fictitious brands of baked beans with varied label formats and nutritional profiles (high and low sodium) and indicated which brand in each set they would purchase if shopping for this product.


Participants were recruited from New Zealand's largest online nationwide research panel.


Five hundred people with self-reported hypertension and 191 people without hypertension aged 18 to 79 years.


The addition of a front-of-pack label increased both groups' ability to discriminate between products with high and low sodium, while the Traffic Light label enabled better identification of the high-sodium product. Both front-of-pack formats enhanced discrimination in the presence of a reduced salt claim, but the Traffic Light label also performed better than the Percentage Daily Intake label in moderating the effect of the claim for the high-sodium product.


Front-of-pack labels, particularly those with simple visual cues, enhance consumers' ability to discriminate between high- and low-sodium products, even when those products feature nutrition claims.

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