Most Americans want government help with healthy eating, says survey

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

There may be huge controversy about whether the government should tax soda, but there are plenty of other areas in which Americans would welcome government involvement, according to a new survey.

The nationally representative survey of 1,045 adults, from market researchers at FoodMinds, found that most respondents want the government to play a role in nutrition labeling, both warning them of less healthy foods (77 percent), and calling out calories and positive attributes front-of-pack, such as vitamins and fiber (86 percent).

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently in the midst of research that could lead to a standardized approach to front-of-pack nutrition labeling, a project it embarked on just as the Smart Choices program was being widely criticized for allocating its green check symbol to sugary cereals late last year.

FoodMinds’ director of Strategic Insights Grant Prentice said: “In light of all the recent attention around food labeling and nutrition guidance programs, we wanted to get a sense of what the consumer actually thought. We heard clearly they believe things need to change – and that it makes sense for the government to lead that charge.”

And consumers said they would pay attention to government-endorsed labeling, with 64 percent of respondents indicating that if their favorite food carried a label warning that it was high in sugar, and had higher than ideal levels of total fat and salt, they would either eat it less often or stop buying it entirely.

Evidence of trust in government-endorsed nutrition labeling was also highlighted recently by research from the International Food Information Council Foundation. Last month it found 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.

However, public trust in government when it comes to nutrition information does not extend to other policy proposals, according to the FoodMinds poll. The majority (63 percent) of survey respondents said they were opposed to taxation of foods and beverages that are high in calories but low in nutritional value, in an effort to help people avoid them. Preferred strategies included government sponsorship of nutrition education, with 72 percent in favor, and 57 percent said they favored banning the marketing of unhealthy foods to children and young adults.

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