Sodium labelling confusing: study


According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, sodium-related claims on food labels are leaving consumers confused. While sodium claims have the potential to facilitate lower sodium food choices, consumers do not seem to differentiate between different types of claims that have different meanings, given the current labelling environment.

Study author Christina L. Wong provides video explanation of the study, alongside the printed documentation. This video first appeared on Scivee.

Consumer attitudes and understanding of low sodium claims on food: An analysis of healthy and hypertensive individuals

Researchers: Christina Wong, JoAnne Arcand, Julio Mendoza, Spencer Henson, Ying Qi, Wendy Lou, Mary L’Abbé

Objectives: We evaluated consumer attitudes and understanding of different types of sodium claims and the effect of having hypertension on responses to such claims.

Design: Canadian consumers (n = 506), with and without hypertension, completed an online survey that contained a randomized mock package experiment, which tested 4 packages that differed only by the claims they carried as follows: 3 sodium claims (disease risk reduction, function, and nutrient-content claims) and a tastes-great claim (control). Participants answered the same questions on attitudes and understanding of claims after seeing each package.

Results: Food packages with any sodium claim resulted in more positive attitudes toward the claim and the product healthfulness than did packages with the taste control claim, although all mock packages were identical nutritionally. Having hypertension increased ratings related to product healthfulness and purchase intentions, but there was no difference in reported understanding between hypertensives and normotensives. In general, participants attributed additional health benefits to low-sodium products beyond the well established relation of sodium and hypertension.

Conclusions: Sodium claims have the potential to facilitate lower sodium food choices. However, we caution that consumers do not seem to differentiate between different types of claims, but the nutritional profiles of foods that carry different sodium claims can potentially differ greatly in the current labeling environment. Additional educational efforts are needed to ensure that consumers do not attribute inappropriate health benefits to foods with low sodium claims.


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