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Kilojoule labelling only effective with supporting education, study says

An Australian study which assessed the effectiveness of mandatory kilojoule labelling across NSW food outlets has found that educational programs need to be enacted for the labelling to be effective.

The study was presented yesterday to the European Congress on Obesity by Professor Ian Caterson of the Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise and Eating at the University of Sydney.

Caterson told ABC Science that results overseas have indicated that food labelling has limited effect without a supporting educational campaign.

“Signage has been tried with mixed results,” he said.

“It appears that this was, in part, due to the fact people didn’t know what it was about.”

Caterson and his team designed an educational campaign to complement the introduction of the mandatory labelling.

In order to measure effectiveness, he completed a ‘baseline study’ prior to the release which surveyed consumer awareness of kilojoules and how this impacted on food choices.

The campaign was run through traditional advertising avenues as well as Facebook, search engine advertising, a website and smartphone app.

The researchers found that awareness of kilojoule intake improved eight months after the introduction of the campaign with an increase of 14 percent of consumers able to identify the correct average daily intake.

Caterson said that the amount of kilojoules purchased reduced by an average of 519 kilojoules.

“This actually shows a change due to the campaign. The challenge is to sustain the effort and bring about a long term commitment to behaviour change.”

The introduction of mandatory kilojoule labelling in NSW fast food outlets early last year was a direct response to alarming levels of obesity in the state which is estimated to cost NSW’s economy $18 b annually.

Mandatory labelling now also includes ready-made meals in supermarkets.

 

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