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Color-Coded Front-of-Pack Nutrition Labels—An Option for US Packaged Foods?


Dunford, Elizabeth K.; Poti, Jennifer M.; Xavier, Dagan; Webster, Jacqueline L.; & Taillie, Lindsey Smith (2017). Color-Coded Front-of-Pack Nutrition Labels—An Option for US Packaged Foods?. Nutrients, 9(5), 480. PMCID: PMC5452210


The implementation of a standardized front-of-pack-labelling (FoPL) scheme would likely be a useful tool for many consumers trying to improve the healthfulness of their diets. Our objective was to examine what the traffic light labelling scheme would look like if implemented in the US. Data were extracted from Label Insight’s Open Access branded food database in 2017. Nutrient levels and the proportion of products classified as “Red” (High), “Amber” (Medium) or “Green” (Low) in total fat, saturated fat, total sugar and sodium for food and beverage items were examined. The proportion of products in each category that had each possible combination of traffic light colors, and met the aggregate score for “healthy” was examined. Out of 175,198 products, >50% of all US packaged foods received a “Red” rating for total sugar and sodium. “Confectionery” had the highest mean total sugar (51.9 g/100 g) and “Meat and meat alternatives” the highest mean sodium (781 mg/100 g). The most common traffic light label combination was “Red” for total fat, saturated fat and sodium and “Green” for sugar. Only 30.1% of products were considered “healthy”. A wide variety (n = 80) of traffic light color combinations were observed. A color coded traffic light scheme appears to be an option for implementation across the US packaged food supply to support consumers in making healthier food choices.


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Journal Article

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Dunford, Elizabeth K.
Poti, Jennifer M.
Xavier, Dagan
Webster, Jacqueline L.
Taillie, Lindsey Smith