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The Influence of Nutrition Label Placement on Awareness and Use among College Students in a Dining Hall Setting

      Abstract

      Background

      Nutrition labels may be important predictors of dietary selections among college students; however, awareness and use are not well understood in this population.

      Objective

      The aim of this work was to investigate the influence of label placement on label awareness and use, including influences over time. We also aimed to identify predictors of awareness and use, preferred label information, and reasons for label nonuse.

      Design

      Cross-sectional surveys were administered in three 1-week waves over 3 months.

      Participants/setting

      Two thousand seven hundred twenty-nine students aged 18 years or older in four university dining halls.

      Intervention

      Nutrition labels were placed on sneeze guards in two dining halls and directly in front of food in two comparator dining halls.

      Main outcome measures

      Label awareness and use were measured using 5-point Likert scales. Reasons for label nonuse and preferred types of information were assessed by response frequencies.

      Statistical analysis performed

      Logistic regression was used to determine predictors of label awareness and use. To test for differences in information preferences between label users and nonusers, χ2 tests were used.

      Results

      Nutrition label awareness and use did not vary by label placement or over time. Awareness was related to being obese, having higher perceived stress, taking nutrition classes, having good/excellent eating habits, eating breakfast, tracking food intake, and exercising five or more times per week. Use was related to being a woman, being overweight, having higher perceived stress, having good/excellent eating habits, eating breakfast, tracking food intake, and exercising three or more times per week. Information preferences differed by use, but calories, fat, and protein were the most preferred pieces of information overall. Not caring, already having a good idea about nutrition information, and not having time were the top reasons for label nonuse.

      Conclusions

      Label awareness and use did not change with label placement or over time. Making labels easy to read and including preferred information may encourage greater awareness and use.

      Keywords

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      Biography

      M. J. Christoph is a doctoral-degree student, Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

      Biography

      B. D. Ellison is an assistant professor, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

      Biography

      E. N. Meador is assistant director and dietitian, Dining Services, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.