Submitted to: Annual Meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/10/2005
Publication Date: 7/16/2005
Citation: Bowman, S.A. 2005. A comparison of food label use by men and women in the United States. [abstract]. Annual Meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists. p. 71E-1
Technical Abstract: There are Federal dietary guidelines that tell Americans how they may choose foods to eat a healthful diet. At the point of purchase, a consumer gets information through nutrition fact labels on food packages. Despite such efforts, two-thirds of adults are overweight partly due their poor dietary choices. It is therefore necessary to know whether the consumer uses and understands the nutrition information on the food packages. The study compares the food label reading characteristics of nationally representative sample of U.S. men and women. Data from the United States Department of Agriculture's Diet and Health Knowledge Survey conducted in 1994-1996. There were 5,765 adults in the study. Significantly more women than men often read ingredients (34% vs. 22%) and nutrition information while grocery shopping. Total fat content was the most read information by both women and men. Total calories and saturated fat content were the second most read, followed by sodium and cholesterol. Only small percentages of women (27%) and men (18%) either read serving size information or understood percent daily values. Breakfast cereal labels were read (33%) most often. Other food labels read included processed meat products like hot dogs and bologna; table spreads and salad dressings; snack foods such as chips, popcorn and pretzels; frozen dinners; and cheese. The study showed that a majority of consumers do not use or understand nutrition information available to them on food packages. For consumers to benefit from label information, it is necessary to make food labels, especially serving size and percent daily values information, easy to understand.