a1 Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, 1300 South 2nd Street – Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55454, USA
Objective Nutrition label use could help consumers eat healthfully. Despite consumers reporting label use, diets are not very healthful and obesity rates continue to rise. The present study investigated whether self-reported label use matches objectively measured label viewing by monitoring the gaze of individuals viewing labels.
Design The present study monitored adults viewing sixty-four food items on a computer equipped with an eye-tracking camera as they made simulated food purchasing decisions. ANOVA and t tests were used to compare label viewing across various subgroups (e.g. normal weight v. overweight v. obese; married v. unmarried) and also across various types of foods (e.g. snacks v. fruits and vegetables).
Setting Participants came to the University of Minnesota's Epidemiology Clinical Research Center in spring 2010.
Subjects The 203 participants were ≥18 years old and capable of reading English words on a computer 76 cm (30 in) away.
Results Participants looked longer at labels for ‘meal’ items like pizza, soup and yoghurt compared with fruits and vegetables, snack items like crackers and nuts, and dessert items like ice cream and cookies. Participants spent longer looking at labels for foods they decided to purchase compared with foods they decided not to purchase. There were few between-group differences in nutrition label viewing across sex, race, age, BMI, marital status, income or educational attainment.
Conclusions Nutrition label viewing is related to food purchasing, and labels are viewed more when a food's healthfulness is ambiguous. Objectively measuring nutrition label viewing provides new insight into label use by various sociodemographic groups.
(Received October 24 2010)
(Accepted April 28 2011)
(Online publication July 07 2011)