225814 Role of Food Packaging, Advertising, and Public Health Messages in the Nutrition Knowledge of Low-Income Adults

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 : 12:30 PM - 12:50 PM

Jane F. Kostenko, MEd , Food Supplement Nutrition Education - St. Mary's County, University of Maryland Extension, Leonardtown, MD
Stephanie Grutzmacher, PhD , Department of Family Studies, School of Public Health, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Public health messages often conflict with messages delivered via food packaging and product advertisements. Due to limited regulation and substantial investment in marketing, food company messages about nutrition for consumers may be more prominent than public health messages. This is problematic because such food product messages often overstate positive aspects, while obscuring other, less healthy characteristics of food products, and oversimplify information needed to make healthful food choices. Using findings from a study of food stamp eligible adults (n = 239), this paper will address the ways in which people incorporate advertised messages and public health messages into their knowledge of nutrition and nutrition decision-making. Through in-depth interviewing, participants addressed sources of nutrition knowledge directly by rating how much they trust various sources of information and indirectly by responding to hypothetical questions about how they would change their nutrient intake for a variety of nutrients. Preliminary qualitative analyses of codes and themes indicate that participants cite many name-brand products as solutions to consume more fiber, calcium, and whole grains and less sugar and sodium. Many of these products have strong messages regarding these nutrients on packaging and in advertisements. Additionally, participants reported sourcing nutrition information from advertising, friends and family, media reports, and social marketing, although they report their levels of trust in television, magazines, and the internet as lower than other sources. Some participants cite public health messages that are outdated and no longer used (e.g., 5 A Day, Food Guide Pyramid) and others that have been used for promoting specific products (e.g., milk advertisements about dairy intake and weight loss). Finally, participants reveal perceptions and knowledge gleaned from advertising that simplifies or misrepresents accepted nutrition information and recommendations, resulting in conclusions about what behaviors and foods are healthy that are often less ideal than current recommendations. These findings provide evidence of the need to improve food advertising and food packaging parameters and expand the reach of public health nutrition messages. Findings may also help nutrition educators explicitly address nutrition messages and their sources, reducing the power of misconceptions on dietary decision-making.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify prominent nutrition and health messages gleaned through advertisements and food packaging and social marketing and their influence on nutrition knowledge. Describe the common misrepresentations or oversimplifications fostered by nutrition messages. Name the sources of nutrition information that are most widely trusted by this sample of SNAP-eligible adults.

Keywords: Nutrition, Low-Income

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a nutrition educator with the Maryland Food Supplement Nutrition Education program and have conducted needs assessment and evaluation research of the FSNE target audience.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.