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Regulated nutrition claims increase perceived healthiness of an ultra-processed, discretionary toddler snack food and ultra-processed toddler milks: A discrete choice experiment

There has been a prolonged increase in the sale and consumption of ultra-processed, discretionary foods and ultra-processed milks for toddlers, which display numerous on-pack claims that influence health perceptions. This study investigated the relative impact of different regulated and unregulated claims on parent perceptions of the healthiness of a toddler snack food and milk in Australia. Participants aged 18+ years completed an online survey, including discrete choice experiments for an ultra-processed, discretionary toddler snack food and an ultra-processed toddler milk, which displayed combinations of claims across nutrition, health, and other domains. Participants were asked to choose the ‘most and least healthy’ products between three alternatives over seven choice sets. Data were analysed using an ordinal logistic regression model. Likelihood-ratio tests revealed the most important contribution was variation in regulated nutrition-content claims. For the toddler snack, participants were nearly 14 times more likely to perceive a product with the regulated nutrition-content claim “no added sugar, no added salt” as most healthy (OR 13.71, p < 0.001), compared to when no regulated nutrition-content claim was present. For the toddler milk, participants were more than two and a half times more likely to choose a product that contained the regulated nutrition-content claim “2 serves = up to 50% of RDI recommended dietary intake of 14 vitamins and minerals” as most healthy (OR 2.65, p < 0.001) compared to when no regulated nutrition-content claim was present. In Australia, regulated nutrition-content claims can be displayed on packaged foods regardless of healthiness. These results indicate that such claims increase perceptions of healthiness of ultra-processed, discretionary toddler snack foods and ultra-processed toddler milks. Further controls are required to regulate the use of nutrition-content and health claims to facilitate informed consumer choice.

History

Journal

Appetite

Volume

174

Article number

106044

Pagination

1 - 11

Publisher

Elsevier

Location

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

ISSN

0195-6663

eISSN

1095-8304

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal