The Decline In Consumer Use Of Food Nutrition Labels, 1995-2006
This report examines changes in consumers’ use of nutrition labels on food packages between 1995-96 and 2005-06. The analysis finds that, although a majority of consumers report using nutrition labels when buying food, use has declined for most label components. This includes the Nutrition Facts panel and information about calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium. By contrast, use of fiber information has increased.
Nutrition labels became standard on packaged foods in 1994, when the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) took effect with the goal of increasing access to nutrition information and improving consumers’ abilities to make healthful food choices. Since this time, consumer use of these labels has declined 3% for the Nutrition Facts panel, 11% for the ingredient list, and 10% for information about calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium. Use of fiber information increased by 2%, however, while use of information about sugar content remains steady.
Decreases in use of the Nutrition Facts panel was the greatest among people 20-29 years old, those with no education beyond high school, and those who speak primarily Spanish. Younger adults and new residents were the least likely to have benefited from public awareness campaigns administered subsequent to the introduction of the labels, so a lack of knowledge or awareness may contribute to the decline.
The increase in usage of information about dietary fiber was greatest among those age 30 and over, possibly due to the increasing popularity of low carbohydrate diets and the aging population’s marked interest in the health benefits of dietary fiber.