"Traffic-light" labeling improves food choices

A system of color-coding food items using green, yellow and red “traffic light” labels may help consumers make smarter decisions regarding healthy food choices, a new study suggests.

Researchers examined customer responses to surveys taken before and after the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) cafeteria implemented the “traffic light” labeling system.

The labeling system used green labels to indicate foods with the most nutritional value, yellow to indicate less healthy foods and red to indicate the least healthy foods. Cafeteria cash registers were programmed to record each purchased item as green, yellow or red, starting three months before the labeling program was implemented.

Results showed that before the "traffic-light" labeling started, 46 percent of customers said health and nutrition was an important factor in their food purchasing choices, and 15 percent said they looked at nutritional information before purchasing food; after the intervention, the respective numbers increased to 61 and 33 percent.

The findings suggest that people who notice labels reflecting nutritional value are more likely to purchase healthy items.

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Sourced from: Science Daily, 'Traffic-Light' Labeling Increases Attention to Nutritional Quality of Food Choices