The science on front-of-package food labels

Public Health Nutr. 2013 Mar;16(3):430-9. doi: 10.1017/S1368980012000754. Epub 2012 Mar 22.


Objective: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Institute of Medicine are currently investigating front-of-package (FOP) food labelling systems to provide science-based guidance to the food industry. The present paper reviews the literature on FOP labelling and supermarket shelf-labelling systems published or under review by February 2011 to inform current investigations and identify areas of future research.

Design: A structured search was undertaken of research studies on consumer use, understanding of, preference for, perception of and behaviours relating to FOP/shelf labelling published between January 2004 and February 2011.

Results: Twenty-eight studies from a structured search met inclusion criteria. Reviewed studies examined consumer preferences, understanding and use of different labelling systems as well as label impact on purchasing patterns and industry product reformulation.

Conclusions: The findings indicate that the Multiple Traffic Light system has most consistently helped consumers identify healthier products; however, additional research on different labelling systems' abilities to influence consumer behaviour is needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Choice Behavior
  • Commerce
  • Comprehension*
  • Consumer Behavior*
  • Diet*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Food Labeling* / methods
  • Food Preferences*
  • Health
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Science
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration