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Dissecting qualified health claims: evidence from experimental studies.

Research paper by Neal H NH Hooker, Ratapol R Teratanavat

Indexed on: 16 Feb '08Published on: 16 Feb '08Published in: Critical reviews in food science and nutrition



Abstract

This paper reviews recent consumer studies evaluating comprehension of a novel form of food labeling, qualified health claims, now permitted by FDA. The joint goals of qualified health claims are to encourage firms to make accurate, science-based claims about the health benefits of their products while helping consumers prevent disease and improve their health through sound dietary decisions using enhanced nutrition information. This paper examines whether consumers can differentiate between multiple levels of health claims and determines if a front label visual aid helps consumer understanding. Results of experimental consumer attitude studies are presented which suggest that people do not perceive significant differences between the three levels of qualified claims and traditional (unqualified or SSA) health claims. An additional experiment suggests that a visual aid (report card) may be an important device to help consumers distinguish between the levels of health claims. However, thought-listing data suggests that consumers use the report card to draw inferences about overall product quality rather than the strength of scientific evidence supporting the health claim. Implications of these findings for the future regulatory oversight and marketing of functional food products are discussed.