According to study findings presented at the 17th European Congress on Obesity in Amsterdam, a food labeling system, a color-coded “traffic light” system is superior to currently used percentage daily intake systems in helping consumers identify healthy foods.
With percentage daily intake systems, the labeling shows what proportion of the government recommended adult daily intake the key nutrients in the product provide. With the traffic light system, by contrast, a color dot is used to rate the overall or specific nutrient content of a product.
Apparently shoppers who used traffic light labeling were five times more likely to be able to identify healthier food products, compared to shoppers who saw the percentage daily intake system.Shoppers were also able to compare different food products and make judgments about them at a glance with traffic light labeling.
This study featured 790 subjects who were randomly exposed to various foods with traffic light labeling or with percentage daily intake labeling. The subjects were then asked to identify the healthier foods among those to which they were exposed.
It seemed like another benefit of traffic light labeling, that it helped socially disadvantaged people identify healthier foods. People who were the most socially disadvantaged, in terms of income and education, were six times less likely to be able to use the percentage daily intake system than the most advantaged.
While all consumers could use the traffic light system to pick healthier foods, the percentage daily intake system could only be used by the most socially advantaged people.
The authors had to acknowledg that while the findings show that traffic light labeling can help people identify healthier food, whether they will go on to buy them is a whole other matter.