The Unintended Consequences of FDA’S New Label Regulations on Consumer Choice

Samuel Sekar, University of South Florida
Anand Kumar, University of South Florida
Mark Bender, University of South Florida

Award Amount: $500


People who regularly drink sweetened beverages have a roughly 25% greater risk of type 2 diabetes, and sipping just one sugar-sweetened beverage per day increases the risk of diabetes by 13%, independent of any weight gain it may cause (Imamura et al., 2015). Therefore, it is vital to integrate information about sugar content during decision-making (Huang et al. 2019b). However, if calorie information is salient, it could reduce attention to the information about sugar content (Bordalo et al. 2013). Food labels, used as a marketing tool, are the first informative tool found by the customers during shopping and are informative in terms of ingredients, nutrient content, and the presence of allergens in the selected product. Nutrition facts labels help consumers make informed decisions (The United States Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA) 2021). They are the primary source of nutrition information at the point of sale (Oxygen, 2020). In 2016, based on nutrition research and public input, the U.S. FDA mandated printing calorie information in a larger font and sugar content added on all packaged foods and beverages on the nutrition facts label (The U.S. FDA, 2021). Notably, adding information about the sugar content on the label was forecasted to prevent 354,400 cardiovascular cases and 599,300 diabetes mellitus cases, two major causes of death in the U.S, and save around $31 billion in net healthcare costs (Huang et al., 2019a). The elaboration likelihood model would suggest that the salient attribute could get more emphasis during nutrition information processing than other attributes in the label (Petty, Cacioppo, and Schumann 1983). My previous online study indicates that new nutrition labels could lead consumers to sub-optimal choices and influence their health negatively. When consumers make a purchase quickly, the new label performs 1.3x worse. The proposed study explores consumer involvement in processing nutrition information in food choice and compares the new and old labels based on the elaboration likelihood model through a large-scale field study.

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