One study provided information about how label use predicted dietary intake. Kristal and coworkers (2001) compared data collected in Washington State in 1995–1996 and followed-up in 1997–1998. They found that fat intake decreased by approximately 2 percent of calories (from 32 percent to 30 percent) and was strongly associated with the use of food labels. Reductions were greater among women, older persons, persons who were well educated, and those in the later stages of eating a low-fat diet.
Several studies have explored the use of nutrition labeling information by women with type 2 diabetes mellitus (Miller and Brown, 1999; Miller et al., 1997, 1999). In one study, participants reported frequent use of the Nutrition Facts box, but comprehension of label information was poor (Miller and Brown, 1999). An intervention to teach a similar group of women to use the label resulted in a significant increase in their ability to use the food label as compared with the control group (Miller et al., 1999).
In 1999 a study for Health Canada evaluated consumer attitudes and behaviors related to nutrition labeling prior to the policy review (Joint Steering Committee, 1996). A representative sample of 1,331 adults 18 years of age and older was drawn from all ten provinces and stratified for location (urban or rural), age, gender, and education. One subsample included persons who followed a special diet related to heart disease or diabetes or who shopped for a person on a special diet. Over 40 percent reported that nutrition-related information on the food label is “extremely” or “very” important in making purchase decisions; less than 10 percent regarded it as “not important at all.” Women and persons with a university education or with the highest income level were more likely to be influenced by nutrition labeling. The information perceived as most useful was nutrient content, especially fat (46 percent). Over 80 percent reported that they understood the nutrition information on labels “fairly” or “very well.”
Frequency of using the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP), in use at that time, also was assessed. Respondents who had previously indicated that they referred to the NIP “often” or “sometimes” were led through the possible uses of the NIP. Table 2-1 displays the total of “often” and “sometimes” responses to each choice. The results demonstrated few meaningful differences between groups by gender, age, education level, or income.