Health Promotion Journal of Australia Health Promotion Journal of Australia Society
Journal of the Australian Health Promotion Association

An independent assessment of the Australian food industry's Daily Intake Guide 'energy alone' label

Owen Carter, Brennen Mills and Tina Phan

Health Promotion Journal of Australia 22(1) 63 - 67
Published: 2011


Issues addressed: A single thumbnail variant of the food industry?s voluntary front-of-package Daily Intake Guide (DIG) ? called the ?Energy Alone? thumbnail (DIG kJ) ? has recently appeared on many energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods and beverages, especially soft drinks and confectionery. However, there is no published data to date that has assessed its merit. Method: A quota sample of 58 Australian adults (50% female; 47% blue collar; mean age 35 years, range 18-59) was presented with photographs of three food packages alternatively labelled with DIG kJ, full DIG (five thumbnails) and Traffic Lights (TL) systems. Participants ranked each labelling system along seven-point scales for the following dimensions: ?interpretable?, ?noticeable?, ?useful? and ?a deterrent to purchasing unhealthy snack foods?. Participants were afterwards brought together in eight focus groups of 7-8 to discuss the merits of each system. Results: Paired samples t-tests suggested the DIG kJ was rated significantly less ?noticeable?, ?useful? or ?a deterrent? than either the full DIG or TL systems. The TL system was also rated as significantly more ?interpretable? and ?a deterrent? than either variant of DIG. In the focus groups, participants described the DIG kJ as too small to be noticeable, too abstract to be meaningful, and of little practical use. Higher energy on food labels was also associated with positive health, rather than as a risk for overconsumption. Conclusion: The DIG kJ performed poorly against the TL and full DIG. Our results suggest it is an ineffective food labelling system, that is unlikely to affect consumer knowledge, awareness, attitudes, purchasing or consumption behaviours. Key words: Food labelling, kilojoules, obesity, daily intake guide, energy

© Australian Health Promotion Association 2011

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