Nutritional Labeling and Consumer Choices


Jill McCluskey, Kristin Kiesel, Sofia Villas-Boas


behavioral economics, consumer behavior, cultural appropriateness, dietary quality, ethnic diversity, food demand, food labels, food regulation, health behavior , information, marketing, obesity policy debate, regulation


Annual Review of Resource Economics

Year Published:


Policy Summary

This paper reviews applied work in the use of nutritional fact panels to improve consumer access to nutritional information and to promote healthy food choices. They summarize the health and nutritional links found in the literature and frame the discussion in terms of the obesity policy debate. They present approaches to empirically investigate consumer responses to nutritional labels and suggest avenues for future research. They find that label use has the potential to improve dietary quality but by a small magnitude and with mixed results. They find a consumer preference for short, succinct words and believe that the government should approve claims. Ethnic diversity and cultural appropriateness must also be considered in nutritional information programs. They find that regulators must consider consumer segments they are trying to target when implementing new policies, and might consider a multiple-tier system of regulation or labeling. They conclude that economists can contribute to this conversation by evaluating policies and programs, and developing and applying measures that accurately measure policies’ effectiveness in improving dietary and health behavior.

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