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Rudd Radar

Effectiveness of Front-of-Package Food Labeling Systems

April 9, 2012

The British Multiple Traffic Light (MTL) front-of-package labeling system, in which red, yellow, and green symbols are used to show which foods might be eaten sparingly, in moderation, or freely, has most consistently helped consumers identify healthier products, according to a review article on front-of-package labeling systems published in Public Health Nutrition.

The authors suggested that front-of-package labels should convey calories per serving, daily caloric requirements, and specific nutrient levels. Highlighted nutrients should be associated with the most prevalent health problems in the United States and labels should be prominent in size and displayed on the top-right of the package.

The authors reviewed studies published between January 2004 and February 2011 that examined consumer preferences, understanding, and use of different labeling systems. The studies also looked at label impact on purchasing patterns and product reformulation by industry.

The paper was coauthored by the Rudd Center’s Christina Roberto, MS, MPhil, MPhil, Yale University doctoral student in Clinical Psychology and Epidemiology; Marie Bragg, MS, MPhil, Yale University doctoral student in Clinical Psychology; Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Deputy Director; and Kelly Brownell, PhD, Director; and Kristy Hawley, MPH, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and Peggy Liu, Duke University doctoral student in Business.