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Abstract

Food nutrition labels have been used for over a decade to aid consumers in making more informed diet choices and to potentially reduce societal costs from diet-related diseases and health conditions. While there is some evidence of the effectiveness of nutrition labels in changing consumption patterns, the scale of such improvements have been marginal. This has led certain government agencies to consider alternative forms of nutrition information. One such approach is front-of-pack (FOP) nutrition labels which provide simple, easily accessible information on a limited number of key nutrients. The use of FOP labels may facilitate healthier diets by influencing consumer behaviour and by providing an incentive for industry to formulate healthier products. This paper examines the adoption of FOP schemes by UK retailers and manufacturers. Label information for more than 5,500 food products released for sale from 2003 through 2009 were collected from a real-time food innovation resource (Mintel-Global New Product Database) and analyzed based on level of FOP adoption and nutrition profile. Food categories in the analysis included: bread, cakes, cereal, meat products, pastries, pizzas, prepared meals, sandwiches, and sweet biscuits. Binary and ordinal logistic regression models were used to calculate the likelihood of use of various “levels” of FOP labelling as a function of category, retailer/manufacturer brand, and nutritional attributes. Food products introduced by retailers, in more recent years and in categories that were targeted by FSA were more likely to carry an FOP label. In meat, pastry dish and prepared meal categories, increased sodium content decreased odds of use of traffic light label use, relative to guideline daily allowance (GDA) or no FOP label. However, no other nutrition variables were significant in either the pooled or category specific models. Discussion includes possible policy options to optimise manufacturer response, as well as implications for evolving mandatory FOP labelling proposals at the EU level.

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