Consumer use and interpretation of trans fat information on food labels

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Ellis, Sonya
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Trans fat information has recently been added to Nutrition Facts panels and packages are now permitted to bear a â 0 trans fat claimâ . With these changes, and the extensive media coverage trans fats have received, more consumers are becoming aware of trans fats. Although consumers are more aware of trans fats, little is known about if and how they use information on food packages to make purchasing decisions. To investigate this topic, a questionnaire was completed with a total of 244 consumers in 3 grocery stores in the Halifax Regional Municipality. The questionnaire investigated participantsâ awareness of and attitude towards of trans fats, steps they take to reduce trans fats in their diet, and their interpretation of the â 0 trans fatâ claim. The Economics of Information Model was used as a theoretical framework for this study. Data were analyzed using the chi-square test for independence between trans fat awareness and attitude variables and demographic variables. One-way ANOVA was used to test the effect of demographic variables on indices developed for analysis. Almost all participants were aware of trans fats (98%) and consumers had a fairly negative attitude towards trans fats. Most participants (90%) were aware that trans fats were â bad for heart healthâ and 9 out of 10 (92%) believed that trans fats should be limited. Participants were also aware of sources of trans fat; however, approximately one quarter of the sample believed that meat (29%) and dairy (26%) would be high in trans fat. Most participants (92%) were aware of trans fat information on food packages. Over three quarters (82%) of the sample reported trying to reduce their trans fat intake and the Nutrition Facts panel was the most common method used to do this (59%). Women, older consumers, shoppers at the Bedford store, those using nutrition professionals, and those who used a greater number of sources for nutrition information were more likely to use more iv strategies to reduce their trans fat intake. Consumers who were aware of trans fat information on food packages were also more likely to use this information. Although most participants (75%) interpreted the â 0 trans fatâ claim correctly as â low in a certain type of fatâ , a group of shoppers believed products with this claim were low in fat (19%) and/or calories (16%). This claim was generally viewed as positive; however, some participants were skeptical (19%) of the claim and one tenth (10%) believed these products may not â taste as goodâ . Nutrition professionals should focus efforts on helping younger consumers, especially males, to reduce their trans fat intake. Although this group understands the effects of trans fats, fewer people in this group are attempting to reduce their trans fat intake. Educators should also continue their efforts to teach consumers about reading food labels and how to make healthy food choices using all the information available. Consumers are concerned about trans fats and are reading food labels to select foods low in trans fat. Food manufacturers should continue efforts to reformulate current products and develop new products that can be marketed and labeled as trans fat free.
Food , Halifax , Evaluation , Labeling , Nova Scotia , Nutrition , Human nutrition , Trans fatty acids , Consumer behavior