A recent University of Minnesota study suggests that people do not actually look at nutritional information on packaging as much as they say they do. Using an eye-tracking device with a group of designated shoppers the study found that there was “a big difference between what the eye tracker said people looked at and what the participants self-reported they typically looked at while shopping.”

Thirty-three percent of participants said they “almost always” looked at a product’s calorie content on the Nutrition Facts label; 31% said they almost always looked at total fat content (20% said they looked at trans fats); 24% said they studied a product’s sugar content; and 26% said they paid close attention to serving size.    However, the eye-tracking data showed only 9% of shoppers actually looked at calorie count for almost all the items in the experiment; 1% looked at each of the other components, including fat, trans fat, sugar, and serving size, for almost all of the products.

The University of Minnesota study was released around the time that the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine released its “Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols: Promoting Healthier Choices” report which encourages an overhaul of food nutrition labels to  include a standard “front-of-package” symbol system to relay the food’s healthfulness and to make such information simpler and clearer by conveying it graphically.

 

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