Jan 26 -- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA or we) invites comment by March 27, 2023 regarding proposed Quantitative Research on Front-of-Package Labeling on Packaged Foods.
The United States continues to face an epidemic of diet-related chronic diseases, many of which are experienced disproportionately by racial and ethnic minority groups, those with lower socioeconomic status, and those living in rural areas. To help address this problem, FDA has continued to prioritize its nutrition activities to help empower consumers with nutrition information to make healthier choices more easily and encourage industry innovation by providing flexibility to facilitate the production of healthier foods. FDA is focused on: (1) creating a healthier food supply for all; (2) establishing a healthy start to set the foundation for a long, healthy life; and (3) empowering consumers through informative labeling and tailored education.
FDA is exploring the development of a front of package system to help consumers interpret the nutrient information on food products. Front of Package (FOP) labeling is intended to complement the Nutrition Facts label by giving consumers a simple aid to provide additional context for making healthy food selections. As part of our food-labeling efforts, we are exploring the establishment of a standardized, science-based FOP scheme that helps consumers, particularly those with lower nutrition literacy, quickly and easily identify foods that are part of a healthy eating pattern.
The increased attention in recent years to FOP, and the experiences of countries that have adopted FOP labeling suggests that FOP labeling may aid nutrition comprehension and the ability to make healthier choices, especially for those with lower nutrition literacy. FOP schemes adopted in countries throughout the world include both mandatory and voluntary labeling schemes and include non-interpretative, interpretative, nutrient specific, and summary schemes.
In 2022, FDA conducted a review of the literature on FOP nutrition-related labels and conducted a set of focus groups to test FOP concepts and draft FOP schemes (see Docket No. FDA-2023-N-0155 for the literature review). These focus group results provided insights into the varying ways that consumers interpret FOP nutrition information. As part of our efforts to promote public health, we intend to conduct an experimental study, informed by results of the focus group testing, to further explore consumer responses to various FOP schemes. In the experimental study, we will test a smaller subset of FOP schemes from the focus group testing, with additional variations informed by, among other things, focus group results (see https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewIC?ref_nbr=202008-0910-021&icID=253321
for information about FDA's front-of-pack focus groups, including graphic FOP schemes tested).
The study will be a controlled, randomized experiment that will use a 15-minute web-based questionnaire to collect information from 3,000 U.S. adult members of an online consumer panel maintained by a contractor. The sample will be balanced to reflect the U.S. Census on gender, education, age, and ethnicity/race. A measure of nutrition literacy will also be used to balance the sample to ensure a variety of literacy levels for each condition.
Conditions for the study will be: (1) a set of draft FOP schemes, including “no-scheme” controls; (2) three types of mock food products (i.e., a breakfast cereal, a frozen meal, and a canned soup); and (3) a “no-information” condition where no explanation of the FOP scheme is provided. Each participant will be randomly assigned to a condition, which will include viewing a label image and responding to various measures of the label's effectiveness. Some assignments may include making a choice between two label images. Product perceptions (e.g., healthfulness and contribution to a healthy diet), label perceptions (e.g., believability, trustworthiness, and effects perceptions), and purchase/choice questions will constitute the measures of response in the experiment. The instrument will also collect information from participants about their history of purchasing or consuming similar products, nutrition knowledge, dietary interests, motivation regarding label use, health status, and demographic characteristics.
The studies are part of our continuing effort to help enable consumers to make informed dietary choices and construct healthful diets. We intend to use the results to inform our continued exploration of an FOP labeling scheme. We will not use the results to develop population estimates.