Online Program

Simple, salient and scientific: Strategies for presenting nutrient information on Nutrition Facts Labels (NFLs) that promote consumer understanding

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 : 11:10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

Neha Khandpur, MS, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Cambridge, MA
Dan Graham, PhD, Department of Psychology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
Christina Roberto, PhD, Social & Behavioral Sciences, Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA

The Food and Drug Administration has proposed new changes to the nutrition facts label (NFL) that appears on packaged foods. One proposed change is the addition to the label, of added sugars. However, there is limited evidence on how this change will influence consumers. The goal of this study is to test the influence of different presentations of added sugars on consumer understanding, perceptions, and purchase intent.


454 adults, recruited for an online survey through Amazon’s MTurk were randomized to one of 6 experimental conditions: 1)  no nutrition label (control) ; 2) current NFL; 3) FDA’s proposed NFL with added sugars displayed as grams; 4) added sugars displayed in grams and teaspoons; 5) added sugars displayed in grams accompanied by qualitative text: high/med/low; or 6) added sugars in grams plus high/med/low text and % Daily Value. Consumers evaluated 7 commonly consumed food products. Data on additional NFL changes will also be presented.


Consumers who viewed NFLs with added sugars displayed in grams alongside qualitative text (experimental conditions 5 and 6) performed best on an added sugars knowledge test; those viewing the current label had the lowest scores (p<0.001), followed by the control group. However, the groups did not differ in overall nutrition knowledge about the products, purchase intentions, perceptions of label usefulness or clarity.


These results suggest that presenting added sugars in grams accompanied by high/med/low text helps consumers better understand the information.

Learning Areas:

Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Communication and informatics
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines

Learning Objectives:
Discuss the importance of salient communication strategies in health promotion efforts and their influence on consumer behavior; Compare across existing and proposed strategies for communicating the nutrient profile of a product on nutrition labels; Demonstrate, empirically, the most consumer-friendly strategies available for conveying nutrition information

Keyword(s): Nutrition, Obesity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a doctoral candidate in Public Health Nutrition and my research focuses on food policy issues. I have authored a review paper on the subject of nutrition labels and am also the principal investigator of this study. Under the joint mentorship of Drs. Dan Graham and Christina Roberto, I conceptualized, designed and conducted this study and am in the process of analyzing the data and interpreting the results.
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.