Food labels: A critical assessment

Norman J. Temple, Joy Fraser

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Foods sold in packages have both front-of-package (FOP) labels and back-of-package (BOP) labels. The aim of this review is to determine the role they play in informing consumers as to the composition of foods in order to help select a healthy diet. Methods: Recent literature was evaluated and findings combined with assessments made by the authors of food labels used in the United States and Canada. Results: Research shows that most consumers have difficulty understanding the information provided by both FOP and BOP food labels used in the United States and Canada. Research has evaluated the merits of alternative designs. FOP labels should be based on a clear and simple design. They should present information on key nutrients (total fat, saturated fat, sugar, and sodium or salt) and also energy value. They should have color and words that indicate "high," "medium," and "low" levels. Labels can also state quantity per serving. The traffic light system is the best example of this design. An extra traffic light indicating the overall health value of the food should be added. A clearer BOP label also is needed. Implementation of a new food labeling system will probably be opposed by the food industry. More research is needed into which food label designs are most effective, especially for persuading consumers to select healthier food. Conclusions: Both FOP and BOP food labels used in the United States and Canada need to be redesigned using a traffic light system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-260
Number of pages4
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar. 2014


  • Food labels
  • Serving sizes
  • Traffic light labels


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