Does food labelling reduce consumers’ health concerns?

Our visitor Associate Professor Sven Anders from the University of Alberta presented his paper “Effects of nutrition label use on consumer diet-health concerns” on Friday 13 June 2014, co-authored with Christiane Schroeter as part of the Interdisciplinary Research Fund (IRF) seminar series.

Prof. Anders argued that consumptions trends often tend to be driven by indulgence, convinience, wellness, and luxury but not restraint, optimal nutrition or long-term health and many view that initiating food/diet behavioural change appears to be extremely difficult. However, today’s food policy toolbox is largely limited to product labelling and consumer educational campaigns. There seems to be an urgent demand for new, effective, policy relevant-intervention models.

Prof. Anders’ work contributes to the body of literature on decades-old debate on effectiveness of nutrition labelling quantifying to what extent diet-health concerns and usage of current food nutrition labelling tools are related. This is done by addressing endogeneity between diet behaviour and label usage using data from a survey of more than 8000 households using Propensity Score Matching approach.

Prof. Anders concluded that informed-food choice decisions can reduce uncertainty with regard to diet-health concerns and that his analysis reveals that nutrition label users show significantly lower stated health and obesity concerns. Furthermore, existing knowledge stock, lifestyle are some of the key factors explaining label usage.

A better understanding of public food, diet and health concerns, and consumer information behaviour in the context of the current debate over innovation in food labelling will benefit from more reliable evidence regarding the impact of policy interventions can have on public diet-health outcomes.


* Prof Anders’ research interests include Food and Meat Marketing; Food Market Industrial Organization; Analysis of Food Retailing and Consumer Demand; Economics of Food Safety and International Trade.


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