Added-sugar warning labels work, but only if seen

Added-sugar warning labels work, but only if seen

Let’s say you’re standing in line at a fast-food restaurant, pondering the menu. You spot a sugar-warning label on your favorite burger, fries and soft drink combo that tells you the order contains more than half the recommended daily sugar allowance.

It would probably make you stop and think …. at least for a moment, right?

Researchers at the University of California, Davis say if consumers spot a warning label, it tends to change their behavior. They recruited more than 15,000 participants who mirrored the U.S. population in age, gender, race and ethnicity, and education level.

Half were asked to select items from online menus that had added-sugar warning labels while the other half selected from menus without warning labels.

Through their dinner-ordering simulation, researchers learned a few things. First, added-sugar warning labels made it less likely that consumers would order high-sugar items.

Second, the labels helped consumers know which menu items were high in added sugar. (Looking at you, 64-ounce soda.)

And lastly, 72% of the consumers in the study said they would support a law requiring chain restaurants to post sugar warning labels on their menus.

The researchers found that warning labels reduced the probability of ordering a high-added sugar item by 2.2%. However, just 21% of the consumers whose menus contained the added-sugar warning labels noticed them. Those who did spot them ordered 4.9 grams less of added sugar than those whose menus had no warnings.

For now, there are no national rules for chain restaurants to disclose the added sugar in their menus.

When it comes to added sugar, just know that it’s buyer beware.

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