A New Approach to Food Labeling

Can we persuade people to eat better?

By Matthew Kadey, MS, RD
Dec 7, 2018

Maybe graphic health messages on food and beverage packaging like those that adorn cigarette boxes could steer people toward better eating habits.

An Australian study published in the journal Appetite asked participants to rate healthy and unhealthy foods and choose which they would like to eat at the end of the experiment. Next they were shown negative and positive health messages: Some were text only; others had pictures. Study participants then had another chance to rate their desire for the foods.

The scientists found that combining images and negative messages was the most effective way to persuade people to steer away from unhealthy options like chips in favor of healthier foods such as fruit. By monitoring brain activity, the scientists found that warning labels fired up a part of the brain involved in self-control.

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Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

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