Color-coded labels, healthier food

Jan. 7, 2014, Harvard Gazette

Using color-coded labels to mark healthier foods and then displaying them more prominently appears to have prompted customers to make more healthful long-term dining choices in their large hospital cafeteria, according to a report from Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

In the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM), the MGH research team noted that the previously reported changes have continued up to two years after the labeling intervention was introduced.

“Our current results show that the significant changes in the purchase patterns of both hospital employees and all customers resulting from the labels and the choice architecture program did not fade away as cafeteria patrons became used to them,” says Anne Thorndike of the MGH Division of General Medicine, who led the study. ”This is good evidence that these changes in healthy choices persist over time.” Continue reading

Study: As cost of sugary drinks go up, sales go down

Nov. 14, 2013, USA Today

By Nanci Hellmich

People bought fewer sugary drinks when the price was higher than no-calorie or low-cal drinks.

Raising the cost of high-calorie beverages by a few cents — and highlighting calorie content in places where they are sold — decreases sales, a new study shows.

This research comes after much discussion in recent years about trying to combat the nation’s obesity crisis by adding extra taxes to the cost of sugar-sweetened beverages, sometimes called a “soda tax.”

Researchers at Harvard conducted a study in the cafeteria of a financial services company. They increased the price of high-calorie beverages (those that contained 150 calories or more per container), mostly soda, lemonade, whole chocolate milk, and some juices, by $.01 cent per ounce. Continue reading

Green food labels make nutrition-poor food seem healthy

March 12, 2013, Medical Xpress

A Cornell researcher says in a forthcoming print issue of Health Communication that consumers are more likely to perceive a candy bar as more healthful when it has a green calorie label compared with when it had a red one—even though the number of calories are  the same. And green labels increase perceived healthfulness of foods, especially among consumers who place high importance on healthy eating.

“More and more, calorie labels are popping up on the front of food packaging, including the wrappers of sugary snacks like candy bars. And currently, there’s little oversight of these labels,” said Jonathon Schuldt, assistant professor of communication and director of Cornell’s Social Cognition and Communication Lab. “Our research suggests that the color of calorie labels may have an effect on whether people perceive the food as healthy, over and above the actual nutritional information conveyed by the label, such as calorie content,” added Schuldt, who wrote the article, “Does Green Mean Healthy? Nutrition Label Color Affects Perceptions of Healthfulness.” Continue reading

Study: Clearer food labels might help with healthy food choice

Jan. 24, 2012 , NBC News

Different labels on food that clearly display the total number of calories and nutrients in the entire package, rather than just part of it, might help people make healthier food choices, according to a study from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

FDA researchers, whose results appeared in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found that people were best at assessing things like chips and frozen meals – and comparing the healthfulness of multiple products – when the nutrition facts were presented for the entire container’s worth of food, or for both one serving and the entire container. Continue reading