Food and Behaviour Research

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Reference amounts utilised in front of package nutrition labelling; impact on product healthfulness evaluations.

Raats MM, Hieke S, Jola C, Hodgkins C, Kennedy J, Wills J (2014) Eur J Clin Nutr.   doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2014.190. [Epub ahead of print] Nature Publishing Group

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The research question addressed in this paper is how different 
reference amounts utilised in front of package nutrition labellinginfluence evaluation of product healthfulness.


A total of 13 117 participants from six European countries (Germany, UK, Spain, France, Poland and Sweden) were recruited via online panels. A mixed between/within-subject factorial design was employed with food (biscuits, sandwiches, yogurts), 
healthfulness and presence of Guideline Daily Amounts as within-subjects factors and reference amount ('per 100 g', 'typical portion', 'half portion') and country as between-subjects factors.


Overall, people correctly ranked foods according to their objective 
healthfulness as defined by risk nutrients alone, and could distinguish between more and less healthful variants of foods. General healthfulness associations with the three product categories do not appear to have had a strong influence on product ratings. This study shows that where the reference amount of 'per 100 g' is very different from the 'typical' portion size, as was the case for biscuits, products with a 'per 100 g' label are rated significantly less healthful than the 'typical' or 'half typical' portions.


The results indicate that across the three food categories, consumers do factor the 
reference amount, that is, the quantity of food for which the nutritional information is being presented, into their judgements of healthfulness. Therefore, appropriate reference amounts are also of importance for the effective presentation of nutritional information.