U.S. Consumer Perceptions of What Considerations 3 Should Determine if Foods are Labeled ‘Healthy’

One goal of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Foods and Veterinary Medicine Program’s 13 Strategic Plan for 2016-2025 is to foster an environment to promote healthy food choices. Claims 14 appearing on food labels represent one aspect of this environment. The FDA has requested 15 interested parties to provide information about consumer understanding of the term “healthy,” an 16 implied nutrient content claim of great interest among consumers and food manufacturers. The 17 purpose of this study is to provide contemporary insights about U.S. consumer attitudes toward 18 regulating the term ‘healthy’ on food labels and consumer opinions about what considerations 19 should determine if foods are labeled ‘healthy.’ We analyze responses by 525 U.S. consumers to 20 an October 2016 online survey whose responses are weighted by income, age and race to be 21 representative of the contemporary U.S. population. We find 73% of respondents agree that the term 22 ‘healthy’ should be regulated by the Federal Government. Respondents’ most highly rated criteria 23 for determining ‘healthy’ foods include whether foods are free of GMOs, contain no artificial 24 ingredients, contain no trans-fat, are high in vitamins and low in saturated fats. No trans-fat was 25 rated statistically more important than low in saturated fat, while low in saturated fat was rated as 26 statistically more important than any of the following: low in all types of fat, low in sugar and low 27 in sodium.

Publication type: 
Working paper
Date published: 
Thursday, March 9, 2017