Almost 50 per cent never read food labels: Irish study

Posted by Isobel Drake on 27th February 2009

Consumer interest in food labels may not be as strong as expected, with recent research suggesting that up to half never pay attention.

The research carried out by Sarah Keogh, consultant dietitian on Irish consumers’ use and understanding of nutrition labels on pre-packed foods, found 61% of males and 40% of females never read the nutrition label before purchase. The survey also found that understanding of labels was limited among consumers with only 32% of the population knowing that there is a difference between salt and sodium and only 10% understanding the difference between energy and calories. Consumers also initially confused the term “nutrition label” with ingredient list, best-before date and other aspects of the food label.

“As most people are aware, the leading causes of death in Ireland, namely heart attacks, strokes, and various types of cancer, claim thousands of lives every year,” Dr Muireann Cullen, Manager of the Nutrition and Health Foundation, said. “Scientific studies have documented over and over again the role a healthy diet plays in dramatically reducing one’s risk of these diseases and at a time when obesity levels are reaching an all time high, the importance of knowing what you are eating cannot be stressed highly enough.”

“Consumers can sometimes find the information on food packages to be confusing. However, once (they) learn to read a food label, (they’re) well on their way to making healthy food choices,” concluded Dr Muireann Cullen.