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P90 Consumer Use of Food Labels Increases as “Clean Label” Trend Continues

      Background

      The “clean label” trend has driven the food industry towards the production of new food products increasingly marketed to consumers looking for wholesome, nutritious, and minimally processed foods. While the number of “clean labels” continue to grow, the term has not been clearly defined and food manufacturers use a range of food labeling strategies to communicate that their products are “natural” and “free-from” industrial ingredients.

      Objective

      To better understand trends in “clean label” use and resultant food purchasing behaviors, this study examines consumer use of food labels to identify whether food label usage has increased in recent years, and which parts of the food label are used most often when evaluating packaged foods.

      Study Design, Setting, Participants

      Computer-aided telephone interviews were collected annually over 3 years (2017-2019) in a random, representative sample of Vermont residents (n = 1847).

      Measurable Outcome/Analysis

      Respondents were asked about their use of nutrition facts panels, ingredient lists, front of package claims (natural, low sodium), and labels related to food production practices (organic, non-GMO) when evaluating food products. The Mantel-Haenszel test of linear trends (P < .01) was used to determine whether use of each category of food label changed over time.

      Results

      The use of all 4 label categories significantly increased from 2017 to 2019, while the proportion of respondents stating that they did not read food labels decreased. Reading of ingredient lists (86%) and nutrition panels (85%) were more frequently reported compared to front of package (74%) and production practice (72%) label claims.

      Conclusions

      Food label usage is increasing in general, and consumers are increasingly reading both front of package claims (organic, natural, low sodium) and back of package information (ingredients, nutrition facts panel). As consumer demand for “clean label” products increases, more research is needed to better understand the health impacts of such products and the best methods for labeling them.
      Funding None.

      Appendix. Supplementary data