A quasi experiment to assess the consumer and informational determinants of nutrition information processing activities: The case of the nutrition labeling and education act
The author reports a longitudinal quasi experiment that uses the implementation of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) to examine the consumer and information determinants of nutrition information processing activities. Over 1000 consumers from balanced demographic, geographic, and site categories and across 20 different product categories were observed and surveyed within a supermarket setting. Findings suggest that consumers acquired and comprehended more nutrition information following the introduction of the new labels. The NLEA did not, however, always influence these outcomes irrespective of individual consumer differences. Specifically, the new nutrition labels were comprehensible to consumers with varying levels of motivation and most types of nutrition knowledge. However, the new labels appeared to widen consumer differences in terms of how much nutrition information was actually acquired - more motivated consumers and less skeptical consumers acquired more information after the NLEA was passed. Finally, consistent with the NLEA's apparent ability to reduce comprehension differences, the new labels narrowed comprehension differences across healthy and unhealthy products. In contrast, the NLEA widened differences in nutrition information acquisition in favor of unhealthy product categories. These results have implications for public health gains, as well as for the degree to which nutrition may become the basis for competition in unhealthy product categories.
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