Who’s Reading Food Labels? Tracking Nutrition Label Usage Across Major Races/Ethnicities in the U.S., NHANES 2007-2010

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Introduction: Reading food labels is associated with consuming less saturated fat, carbohydrates, and sugar, which is important for those at risk for developing chronic diseases. Previous studies have explored who is looking at food labels, but do not examine the item-specific context in which they are looking. The purpose of this study is to examine differences in food label usage across races/ethnicities for specific food items.

Methods: Data for 6,314 adults participating in the 2007-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, were analyzed. Questions regarding how often they checked food labels and for what purpose were recorded. Descriptive statistics and odds ratios elucidated differences by gender, race, and ethnicity, for types of items checked, and 10 reasons why labels were read.

Results: Less than half of adults check labels consistently when buying food. Checking labels was significantly associated with women’s age and smoking patterns, and male alcohol consumption. Race was significantly associated with checking labels for both sexes. Black and Hispanic men were more likely to check labels than Whites, with odds ratios for the six major foods assessed ranging from 1.5 to 2.9 times more likely.

Discussion: Based on a nationally representative sample, Black and Hispanic adults checked labels more than Whites. Acknowledging that food choice is culture specific can provide insight into how people from different cultures make food choices. Understanding food label usage is one step that can inform culturally competent education materials and food label design, thus assisting adults in making informed and healthier dietary decisions.


American Public Health Association Annual Meeting (APHA)


Atlanta, GA