Study points to consumer confusion over whole grain labeling

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In the study​, published in Public Health Nutrition​, a nationally-representative pool of 1,030 US adults (researchers noted higher education respondents were moderately over-represented) responded to a survey with photos of both hypothetical and real products with various whole grain labels on the front of the package, along with nutrition facts labels and ingredients list for each product.

Participants were asked to identify the healthier option (for the hypothetical products) or assess the whole grain content (for the real products).

Consumer confusion over whole grain content 

Respondents were presented with a pair of hypothetical products. In each pair, one product was nutritionally superior or inferior based on the disclosed nutrition information, which included added sugar content and major ingredients (e.g. corn, salt, sugar), said researchers.

The packages on the hypothetical products either had no front-of-package whole grain label or were marked with “multigrain,”“made with whole grains,”​ or a whole grain stamp.

When asked which product was “healthier,”​ 29-47% of respondents answered incorrectly (specifically, 31% incorrectly for cereal, 29-37% for crackers, 47% for bread).

There were 3 randomly-assigned variations of the label within each of the 3 product categories: cereal (1 Made with WG, 2 Multigrain, 3 WG stamp), crackers (1 Made with WG, 2 Multigrain, 3 WG stamp), and bread (1 Multigrain, 2 Wheat, 3 WG stamp). Each respondent received only 1 variation within each product category.

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