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Can J Diet Pract Res. 2012 Winter;73(4):200-3.

Effectiveness of front-of-pack nutrition symbols: a pilot study with consumers.

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Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON.



The effectiveness of different front-of-pack nutrition rating systems and symbols (FOPS) has not been studied among Canadians. We pilot tested an online FOPS survey with consumers.


Members of the Guelph Food Panel were randomly exposed to traffic light, Percent Daily Value, Health Check, and Smart Pick logos on mock food packages and were asked to rate the FOPS on a Likert-type scale. The FOPS were rated on consumers' ability to understand them, credibility, and influence on purchase decisions. Participants also provided feedback on the survey.


Participants (n=337) deemed the survey appropriate in length and language, and provided suggestions for improving survey clarity. More than 50% of the respondents believed that FOPS should be present on all food packages (65.1%) and should be government regulated (53.0%). The Percent Daily Value symbol was rated highest with respect to liking, credibility, helpfulness, and influence, but was the least understood. When they used direct comparison, consumers preferred the traffic light symbol (53.1%) over the Percent Daily Value (40.0%), Health Check (6.7%), and Smart Pick (0.3%) symbols.


The survey was revised as a result of the pilot study feedback. Preliminary findings from this pilot study suggest that consumers prefer a single, government-regulated symbol, and value more complex FOPS, like the Percent Daily Value symbol, despite finding them harder to understand.

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