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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

Print version ISSN 1020-4989

Abstract

SOUZA, Sônia Maria Fernandes da Costa; LIMA, Kenio Costa; MIRANDA, Henio Ferreira de  and  CAVALCANTI, Francisco Ivo Dantas. Consumer use of nutrition labels in the city of Natal, Brazil. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2011, vol.29, n.5, pp. 337-343. ISSN 1020-4989.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49892011000500006.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the percentage of consumers who read nutrition labels and the association between reading the labels and sociodemographic variables, and to identify suggestions from consumers to make nutrition labels more effective as a source of information. METHODS: For this cross-sectional study carried out in 2008, 368 adults randomly selected from 23 supermarkets in the city of Natal, Brazil, were interviewed. Data were obtained through a semistructured questionnaire including eight closed questions and 10 open questions. RESULTS: The mean age of participants was 40.99 years (± 13.58). The interviews showed that 94.6% of the participants read the nutrition labels and that 96.8% considered the labels important or very important; however, only 3.8% stated that they fully understand the labels. There was a significant association between being motivated to read food labels to make healthier choices (35.7%) and higher family income and schooling (P < 0.0001). The measures mentioned by study participants to increase readability and usage included having qualified professionals provide guidance concerning the labels in supermarkets (73.9%) and disseminating through the media information on food labels, what they are, why they are important, and their role (42.9%). CONCLUSIONS: Consumers did use the labels for nutritional guidance, especially those with higher income and schooling. However, the need to improve the labels was evident, as was the importance of providing opportunities for consumers to learn about the nutritional characteristics of food products.

Keywords : Nutritional labeling; consumer advocacy; food and nutrition education; Brazil.

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