Fortified snacks drive ‘poor’ dietary decisions

Fortified snacks drive ‘poor’ dietary decisions

Nutrient claims on vitamin-fortified snacks may influence consumers to make “poor diet-related decisions”, according to research.

The study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, finds that snacks which have been vitamin-fortified may cause consumers to make poor dietary decisions.

According to the research, when a snack carried a nutrient claim for vitamin fortification, participants were less likely to look for nutrition information on the Nutrition Facts label.

The addition of a nutrient claim also persuaded participants to select the product for purchase, perceive the product as healthier, and mean that they were less likely to choose the healthier product.

Specifically, the research found that very few (10%) clicked to see the Nutrition Facts label when asked to select a product to purchase, and fewer than half (47%) clicked to see the Nutrition Facts label when asked to select the healthier product.

Snacking motivation

The major study involved over 5,000 participants in the US and was undertaken to find out whether vitamin-fortified snacks affects consumers’ purchase decisions, product-related health perceptions, and their motivation to seek out nutritional information on snacks.

Purchasing decisions of participants aged over 18 were scrutinised in the trial relating to vegetable chips (perceived as healthy) and potatoes chips (perceived as not healthy) or an “other" option.

They were asked questions such as which they would prefer to buy and which they deemed healthier. During the testing, at least one of the products was always without a nutrient content claim (NCC).

Although the research was carried out in the US, observers pointed out that manufacturers’ claims on purported nutritional benefits of products was a global issue.

Nutritional knowledge at ‘low point’

Speaking to NutraIngredients, Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, commented: “Unfortunately, nutritional knowledge with the public is at a very low point. In our view, the current rules {on nutritional labelling} are pretty lax. Manufacturers can claim this and that by playing with words.

“What we would hope for is that with the UK coming out of the EU market we could actually do something about it. Claiming the benefits of micro nutrients leaves a lot to be desired for,” he told us.

“I would hope re-labelling would be fit for purpose.”

European legislation sets much of the UK mandatory requirements on labelling, such as country of origin, nutritional profiles, and presence of allergens in food products.

It is unclear what impact Britain’s exit from the EU will have on food labelling but the National Obesity Forum is hoping that the government will clip the wings of food manufactures, which it argues carries too much weight in deciding the wording of health claims.

Source: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Volume 117, Issue 3, March 2017, Pages 376–385, doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2016.10.008
“Vitamin-fortified snack food may lead consumers to make poor dietary decisions”
Authors: Linda Verrill, et al

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