averages of RNIs published in 1990 (Canada, 1990) and are considered to represent the nutritional needs of the total population because they are weighted according to the age and gender distribution of the Canadian population.

CONSUMER UNDERSTANDING AND USE OF NUTRITION LABELING

Consumer Research on Nutrition Labeling in the United States

The history of consumer research on nutrition labeling of food parallels the evolution of food labeling legislation in the United States, with the temporal pattern of research focused around significant proposed changes in label format or content. For example, FDA undertook extensive research in the 1970s, which contributed to the current concepts about nutrition labeling, including the use of percent US RDA (FDA, 1972), and there was research conducted just before and after the 1993 regulations implementing NLEA (FDA, 1993a). Overall however, research to track the continuing evolution of consumer-use patterns of food labeling has been limited.

The Context of Research on Current Nutrition Labeling

The implementing regulations for NLEA explained that nutrition information on the label was to assist consumers in maintaining healthy dietary practices and was to be conveyed in a manner that enabled the public “to readily observe and comprehend such information and to understand its relative significance in the context of a total daily diet” (FDA, 1993a). Thus it was designed to serve as a tool to allow consumers to compare similar products and to understand the contribution of an individual food to the diet—not for planning the overall structure of the diet (FDA, 1991, 1993a).

The development of a label to meet these objectives required extensive testing and included experimental studies, shopping mall-intercept interviews, and focus groups (FDA, 1993a; Geiger, 2001; Geiger et al., 1991; Levy et al., 1992; Lewis and Yetley, 1992). No single design consistently performed best as measured by correct interpretation of the information and consumer format preferences (Levy et al., 1992). Experimental studies found that the % DV helped consumers to make judgments about whether different food products were high or low in a particular nutrient and to put individual food products into the context of a total diet. Without the



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