How can food labelling help us make healthier choices?

Last weekend I had the pleasure of presenting evidence at Liverpool John Moores University to fellow Registered Nutritionists and Nutrition Students about the impacts of food labelling as part of the Association for Nutrition North West regional study day. I thought it would be good to share some of my findings with you here on my blog so here are 10 key points – hope you find them interesting too!

  • Did you know that almost 1/3 consumers regularly refer to food labels on products not previously purchased? The types of foods where labels are more likely to be checked are ready meals, dairy, breakfast cereals and canned goods. When labels are used the information most consumers are looking for is the use by date, fat, sugar and calorie content.1
  • Many consumers avoid having to read the back of food packs by using words or symbols on the front as ‘beacons’ to quickly guide them when they are shopping.2
  • In the UK front of pack nutrition labelling remains voluntary however, research has shown that the use of consistent front of pack labelling across as many food products as possible will help consumers to become familiar with its format, and to use it to balance their diet and in turn control their energy intake.3
  • Presently around 4/5 foods in UK supermarkets carry front of pack labelling.4
  • Research carried out on UK shoppers into whether green or red coloured traffic lights have a greater influence found that participants were more concerned with avoiding reds than choosing greens, and that saturated fat and salt had a greater influence on decisions regarding healthiness than total fat and sugar.5
  • In Australia, a health star rating is applied to foods based on their saturated fat, sodium and sugar content and whether they contain any fruit/veg/nuts/legumes and in some categories the fibre and protein content. This makes it easy to assess the overall healthfulness of a product. 6
  • Lack of motivation and attention are the bottlenecks that prevent nutrition labelling from having a positive effect on consumer choice with the average attention to nutrition labels being between just 25 and 100 milliseconds!7
  • Positive front of pack logos are in wide use across Europe and they can help consumers to prevent interpreting images or health claims on labels incorrectly.8
  • The acceptance of products with nutrition and health claims is influenced by many different factors: familiarity with the product, health claim or functional ingredient used, plus personal relevance appear to be the most important.9
  • It’s important that manufacturers/retailers have enough knowledge about their customers so that they can design labels, communicate product benefits and offer incentives that will work for them. This, in addition to better rules on marketing & promotions of unhealthier foods & drinks can create a positive environment where the healthy choice is the easy choice.


AB Food Nutrition has many years of experience in food labelling and carrying out nutrition calculations for both mandatory back of pack nutrition labelling and voluntary front of pack multiple traffic light systems. Each project is handled with meticulous care to maximise accuracy whilst offering value for money and unparalleled customer support. For more information or to request a product recipe analysis contact Anne today.


1 Food and Drink Federation research
2 Enright G, Good H, Williams N. Qualitative Research to Explore Peoples’ Use of Food Labelling Information. London: Food Standards Agency, 2010
3 DH (2016) Guide to creating a front of pack (FoP) nutrition label for pre-packed products sold through retail outlets
5 Scarboroughet al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (2015) 12:151
8 www.choicesprogramme
9 Campden BRI