Effectiveness of Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labels in French Adults: Results from the NutriNet-Santé Cohort Study.

PLoS One. 2015 10(10):e0140898

Ducrot P, Méjean C, Julia C, Kesse-Guyot E, Touvier M, Fezeu L, Hercberg S, Péneau S.

BACKGROUND:

To date, no consensus has emerged on the most appropriate front-of-pack (FOP) nutrition label to help consumers in making informed choices. We aimed to compare the effectiveness of the label formats currently in use: nutrient-specific, graded and simple summary systems, in a large sample of adults.

METHODS:

The FOP label effectiveness was assessed by measuring the label acceptability and understanding among 13,578 participants of the NutriNet-Santé cohort study, representative of the French adult population. Participants were exposed to five conditions, including four FOP labels: Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA), Multiple Traffic Lights (MTL), 5-Color Nutrition Label (5-CNL), Green Tick (Tick), and a "no label" condition. Acceptability was evaluated by several indicators: attractiveness, liking and perceived cognitive workload. Objective understanding was assessed by the percentage of correct answers when ranking three products according to their nutritional quality. Five different product categories were tested: prepared fish dishes, pizzas, dairy products, breakfast cereals, and appetizers. Differences among the label effectiveness were compared with chi-square tests.

RESULTS:

The 5-CNL was viewed as the easiest label to identify and as the one requiring the lowest amount of effort and time to understand. GDA was considered as the least easy to identify and to understand, despite being the most attractive and liked label. All FOP labels were found to be effective in ranking products according to their nutritional quality compared with the "no label" situation, although they showed differing levels of effectiveness (p<0.0001). Globally, the 5-CNL performed best, followed by MTL, GDA and Tick labels.

CONCLUSIONS:

The graded 5-CNL label was considered as easy to identify, simple and rapid to understand; it performed well when comparing the products' nutritional quality. Therefore, it is likely to present advantages in real shopping situations where choices are usually made quickly.