Using new eye-tracking technologies to assess the effects of varied nutrition labels on the selection and purchase of healthful foods

The Foundation's program, Healthy Eating Research: Building Evidence to Prevent Childhood Obesity, was designed to support investigator-initiated research to identify and assess environmental and policy influences with the greatest potential to improve healthy eating and weight patterns among the nation's children.This study assesses front-of-package nutrition labeling using novel technology (eye tracking) in a population at risk for obesity (urban, lower-income, racial and ethnic minority). Eye tracking allows objective comparison of use of monochromatic Nutrition Keys labels (soon to be added to food packages by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, but currently unevaluated) and color-coded "traffic light" labels by parent/child pairs making food choices in a simulated grocery setting. This study uses random assignment and a 2 (label design: traffic light, Nutrition Keys) x 2 (educational materials: present, absent) plus control group (no-label, no signage) design to create five groups of 50 parent/child pairs. Parent/child pairs will complete a food choice task in a simulated grocery aisle (i.e., while wearing eye-tracking glasses, they will select 6 foods to take home). Study outcomes to be evaluated include label viewing, label comprehension and healthfulness of food items selected. Results from this study will help policy-makers decide whether changing from Nutrition Keys to color-coded labels would benefit consumer health by revealing how each label type is viewed during food selection, whether label types are equally clear and informative, and whether either label leads to more healthful food purchases than no label. Through its evaluation of educational signage, findings from this study will also allow policy-makers and other stakeholders to see how such resources relate to label use and food choice. Deliverables include manuscripts for publication in peer-reviewed journals and study results will be detailed on a publicly available website created by study staff.

Grant Details

Amount Awarded $169,966.00

Awarded on: 8/16/2011

Time frame: 9/1/2011 - 8/31/2013

Grant Number: 69295


University of Minnesota

University of Minnesota
100 Church Street, S.E., Morrill Hall
Minneapolis, 55455-0110


Lisa J. Harnack
Project Director