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J Am Diet Assoc. 1992 Oct;92(10):1230-4.

More effective nutrition label formats are not necessarily preferred.

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Division of Consumer Studies, Food and Drug Administration, Washington, DC 20204.


An experimental design was used to compare performance and preference for five nutrition label formats. Four performance measures--accuracy and false-positives in identifying nutrient differences, time required, and correctness in judging which product was more nutritious--were derived from a product-comparison task. A sample of 1,460 food shoppers over 18 years old was recruited by a shopping mall-intercept method. Results of the study demonstrated that preferences and performance do not necessarily agree. The Control format, which had no nutrition profile information, performed the best but was liked the least. The Adjectival format, which provided nutrition profile information in the form of descriptive adjectives, was the most preferred. Results also showed that listing Daily Reference Values or nutrition profile aids increased preference but either did not affect performance or decreased it, depending on the specific aid and performance measure. Formats that some subjects liked for having adequate information others disliked for being hard to use. Formats that some subjects liked for being easy to use others disliked for having inadequate information. Age, education, and race were related to all of the performance measures except judgment of relative nutrition. Only gender was related to preference. Results of the study are useful as guidance for the development of consumer education materials.

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