Impact of explained v. unexplained front-of-package nutrition labels on parent and child food choices: A randomized trial

Dan J. Graham, Rachel G. Lucas-Thompson, Megan P. Mueller, Melanie A Jaeb, Lisa Harnack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Objective The present study investigated whether parent/child pairs would select more healthful foods when: (i) products were labelled with front-of-package (FOP) nutrition labels relative to packages without labels; (ii) products were labelled with colour-coded Multiple Traffic Light (MTL) FOP labels relative to monochromatic Facts up Front (FuF) FOP labels; and (iii) FOP labels were explained via in-aisle signage v. unexplained. Design Participants were randomly assigned to one of five conditions: (i) FuF labels with in-aisle signs explaining the labels; (ii) FuF labels, no signage; (iii) MTL labels with in-aisle signage; (iv) MTL labels, no signage; (v) control group, no labels/signage. Saturated fat, sodium, sugar and energy (calorie) content were compared across conditions. Setting The study took place in a laboratory grocery aisle. Subjects Parent/child pairs (n 153) completed the study. Results Results did not support the hypothesis that MTL labels would lead to more healthful choices than FuF labels. The presence of FOP labels did little to improve the healthfulness of selected foods, with few exceptions (participants with v. without access to FOP labels selected lower-calorie cereals, participants with access to both FOP labels and in-aisle explanatory signage selected products with less saturated fat v. participants without explanatory signage). Conclusions Neither MTL nor FuF FOP labels led to food choices with significantly lower saturated fat, sodium or sugar. In-aisle signs explaining the FOP labels were somewhat helpful to consumers in making more healthful dietary decisions. New FOP labelling programmes could benefit from campaigns to increase consumer awareness and understanding of the labels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)774-785
Number of pages12
JournalPublic health nutrition
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2016 The Authors.


  • Facts up Front
  • Front-of-package labelling
  • Multiple Traffic Light
  • Nutrition Keys
  • Nutrition labelling


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