Brazilians least likely to understand food labels


The Brazilian Institute for Consumer Defense (IDEC) participated in a coordinated study (PT) by Consumers International (CI) in 9 countries — in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas — about the nutritional labels on industrialized foods and concluded that Brazilians are the least able to identify nutritional information on the labels.

More than 3,000 consumers responded to a quiz, which demonstrated the challenges in choosing a healthy diet. Brazil, the 3rd country with the most participants (786), behind Slovenia and Holland, was the one that obtained the worst results, getting 28% of the answers correct. They were shown images of popular industrialized food with and without simple nutritional information. In Brazil’s case, there were 4 types of cream crackers (no period, seems Globo didn’t finish the sentence)

— A lack of information is universal. The other participating countries also don’t have nutritional information on the front of the packaging, which creates difficulty for the consumer. The result here (in Brazil) was the worst due to not having the habit of reading this information and the difficulty of understanding it. The information out there today isn’t the clearest. There are many technical words. And this confuses more than it helps the consumer — affirms IDEC nutritionalist and researcher Ana Paula Bortoletto.


When the same product would contain clear and consistent information on the front part of the package, starting with the “nutritional traffic light”, the percentage of correct answers in the identification of the amount of fat and salt was at 84%, an amount three times higher than without the “traffic light”. The traffic light labels were based on a proposal by the Food Standards Agency of the UK: with red indicating foods rich in sugar, salt, saturated fat; yellow indicating average levels; and green indicating low levels.

The number of correct answers increased even more, passing 90%, when the “nutritional traffic light” was used to compare one product with another.

— As far as sugar, for example, in Brazil the industries aren’t obligated to state the amount of this nutrient on the label, which makes the task of choosing the healthiest options more difficult. The quiz didn’t allow for exact duplication of the label analysis done personally, however, it showed important results in relation to the use and understanding of the “nutritional traffic light” on the package — explains Ana Paula.

The quiz was available on the IDEC portal, accepting Brazilian consumer answers, from the 22nd of April to the 5th of May.

The results obtained by Consumers International and its members were presented to the member countries of the World Health Organization last Thursday evening, during the 66th World Health Assembly, in Geneva. WHO members were asked to ratify, implement and go beyond the recommendations relating to nutrition of WHO’s Global Action Plan for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases. – Source (PT)


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