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Research finds daily value amounts poorly understood

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 04-Feb-2010
Last updated on 04-Feb-2010 at 17:27 GMT2010-02-04T17:27:27Z

Few consumers use the Nutrition Facts panel to make sense of how nutrients fit into the context of their daily diet, according to a three-phase research project from the International Food Information Council Foundation.

The foundation is a non-profit organization funded by the food, beverage and agricultural industries with the stated intention of reporting science-based information on health, nutrition and food safety for the public good. It has reported the findings from this latest project to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is currently undertaking a research project of its own in order to reevaluate the effectiveness of nutrition labeling in terms of helping consumers make healthy food choices.

“We believe that addressing consumers’ need for usable information on the Nutrition Facts panel will accelerate efforts to improve the diet and health of Americans,” said International Food Information Council Foundation president and CEO David Schmidt.

The foundation found through its research that consumers did not use percent DVs to see how food and drinks fit into their overall daily diet – and some thought percent daily value (%DV) described a product’s composition, meaning they perceived a product to be made of ten percent fat if fat was listed at ten percent DV.

Among other key findings, the foundation said that the public generally trusted nutrition information more if a government body like the FDA is mentioned in a highly visible part of the Nutrition Facts panel, particularly in terms of trusting the listed portion size.

It also found that listing the percent daily value of calories was helpful to consumers in considering how much of a contribution a product’s energy makes to their daily diet; moving the calories into the main body of the panel increased use of this information; and moving the information contained in the current footnote (explaining the context of daily value amounts) into a column in the main body of the panel also increased use of the information.

The foundation said that its research highlights the need to conduct further consumer research into whether certain changes to the Nutrition Facts panel would have benefits that outweigh any confusion they may generate. It also suggested that any changes should be accompanied by consumer education to ensure that the information provided is properly understood by the public.

Further information on the foundation's research is available at www.foodinsight.org .

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