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Research work on Nutrition, Health and Related Claims

Research conducted in 2006

In order to further evaluate the best risk management options for nutrition content claims, research was conducted on consumer understanding of inclusion of percentage daily intake values (%DI) in the nutrition information panel, and on ‘no added sugar’ claims.

FSANZ commissioned TNS Research to investigate consumer understanding and ability to use %DI and the percentage recommended dietary intake (%RDI) information to make product decisions, and consumer ability to use %DI information in the interpretation of nutrient content claims. In June 2006, 51 in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted in Australia and New Zealand with consumers across a broad range of experiences.

Current use of %RDI information was found to be very low, despite medium to high level awareness, and consumers’ ability to correctly use the information when prompted. There was almost no perceived difference between %RDI and %DI, and participants were confused about the terms ‘dietary’ and ‘daily’, using them interchangeably. Participants who were exposed to %DI information for the first time required additional assistance or multiple attempts before they felt confident to use it.

Those participants who used the nutrition information panel were mostly able to assess the “trade-off” nutrient relating to the claimed nutrient (for example, checking sugar content when a low fat claim is made). The study found that requiring %DI declarations for only energy and the claimed nutrient would reduce the potential usefulness of this type of labelling and energy was found to be confusing for many participants. However, %DI values for all nutrients could be of value to consumers.

Front-of-pack labelling using %DI received a positive response, as did the inclusion of %DI for all nutrients in the panel.

  • Click here for the full report.

In a second survey, FSANZ commissioned TNS Research to assess consumer understanding of the ‘no added sugar’ nutrition content claim due to concerns that such labelling is misleading, e.g. infers that ‘no sugar’ is present. An online survey was completed in June 2006 by 1007 respondents from a representative sample of the Australia and New Zealand populations. Respondents were exposed to product stimuli that had the disclaimer ‘contains natural sugar’ (test group) or no disclaimer (control group). Stimulus mock ups included a total of six products with low, medium or high natural sugar levels.

The presence of the disclaimer did not result in a major improvement in the interpretation of the ‘no added sugar’ claim. While respondents did have a good understanding that products with ‘no added sugar’ may contain naturally occurring sugars, many were unable to correctly assess the sugar content. The study suggests that an alternative risk management approach is required to minimize consumer misunderstanding of the ‘no added sugar’ claim.

  • Click here for the full report.

Some stakeholders expressed concerns about the potential for consumer misunderstanding of nutrition content claims on foods of lower nutritional value. In response to these concerns, FSANZ commissioned two studies:

1. A quantitative survey of Australian and New Zealand consumers (n = 1100). This study investigated whether or not the presence of a nutrition content claim on a food label would influence consumers’ intent to purchase, their assessment of the nutritional value and perceived health benefits of food products. The survey found that there was little impact of exposure to the nutrition content claims in relation to consumer evaluations of products or purchase intentions. Other label information was used (for example, nutrition information panels) to make judgments on food products. Click here for the full report.

2. In-store observations of grocery shoppers in a real world situation. The influence of nutrition content claims on consumer purchase behaviour was investigated by in-store interviews (n=187). Results revealed that 80% of respondents reported not reading a claim on products where a claim was present on the label. Rather, general health reasons, product features (e.g. flavour), brand, price and routine were the most frequently cited reasons for product selection. Click here for the full report.

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