A study on front-of-package labeling (FOPL) in Jamaica has found that octagonal warning labels perform best in helping local consumers make healthier food choices.
Octagonal warnings were the easiest to use and understand by persons choosing food and drink products at supermarkets across nine parishes throughout the country during the information gathering process.
Consumers showed that the octagonal warning labels had the highest chances of correctly identifying when products were excessive in sugars, sodium, or saturated fats, of correctly identifying the least harmful option, and of choosing the least harmful or none of the products more often.
The Superior Efficacy of Front of Package Warning Labels in Jamaica Study was conducted by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the University of Technology (UTech), and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
It is the first study to take place in the Caribbean to examine the best performing FOPL and contributes to the evidence that has been accumulated in the Region of the Americas on the topic.
The study forms an important component of the Ministry’s efforts to tackle non-communicable diseases (NCDs) using an evidence-based approach.
Portfolio Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, in his remarks at a virtual media briefing on Thursday (July 29) to announce the results of the study, said that FOPL gives consumers the best option to make the right choices as to what is in their best interest.
“Consumers must know what is in their food. Jamaicans, whether they are shopkeepers, manufacturers, or traders or just the little retired lady down in the countryside, they have a right to know what is in their food and I think that is a reasonable and just cause to champion,” he noted.
“Front of package labelling is an important tool to empower personal choice,” he added.
Dr. Tufton noted that based on the study the octagonal warning label is “easily understood.”
“I think that overtime, whatever option is chosen it has to be accompanied by significant public education and so even though consumers have signalled their intention as to what they would prefer, I do believe that we can educate further and nudge consumers into utilising what is ultimately decided on,” he said.
Meanwhile, PAHO Regional Advisor on nutrition and physical activity, Dr Fabio DaSilva Gomes, said the study was conducted between November 2020 and February 2021.
Several countries require manufacturers of packaged foods to provide warning labels to help consumers identify foods with harmful levels of salts, fats, and sugar, with the latest country being Mexico, which is one of the largest trading partners of goods with the United States.