The consumption of sugar has gradually been increasing over the last decade. While this ingredient seems to be harmless, it may be addictive and linked to many health conditions, such as chronic inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and overweight.
Public health experts have taken certain measures to encourage consumers to lower their sugar intake. In Europe, the Nutri-Score label is one of these methods. It is a labeling system coded by colors. Foods are rated from A to E with colors ranging from green to red, which indicates the best to the worst quality.
A recent study suggests that the Nutri-Score label may be more reliable than advertising claims in showing the nutritional value of foods and drinks. The results were published in the PLoS ONE journal.
Due to increasing awareness of consumers about the health risks linked to excessive consumption of sugar, food manufacturers are trying to lower the content of this ingredient in their products.
They tend to make deceptive claims in product advertisements or packaging to make their products more favorable.
Nevertheless, the problem is that these marketing claims would cause people to assume falsely the nutritional value of the products. For instance, a bottle of fruit juice with reduced sugar does not necessarily mean it contains low sugar content.
In this research, the scientists implemented an online survey to measure the effects of the Nutri-Score label on consumers’ perceptions of foods.
There were 1,103 participants from Germany. They had to assess the nutritional value of three different products: oat beverage, chocolate muesli, and instant cappuccino.
In this survey, respondents were randomly given different claims about these products, such as less sugar, less sweet, or without added sugar, with or without the Nutri-Score label.
The results suggested that they tend to mainly focus on the ingredients, followed by fat and sugar content when purchasing food. This verifies the significance of sugar levels when shoppers decide what to buy.
According to the study’s participants, chocolate muesli is the least healthy food, while oat drink is the healthiest option.
The most important finding is that these evaluations may be subjected to the nutritional claims on the packaging.
For instance, chocolate muesli was rated healthier when products were advertised with less sugar. The addition of the Nutri-Score label with a C or D score corrected this effect.
The findings in this study indicate that consumers have to face great challenges in evaluating the nutritional profiles of food products on the market.
The authors suggested that the Nutri-Score label should be added to the packaging to prevent deceptive claims from the manufacturers.