Facts up front versus traffic light food labels: A randomized controlled trial

Christina A. Roberto, Marie A. Bragg, Marlene B. Schwartz, Marissa J. Seamans, Aviva Musicus, Nicole Novak, Kelly D. Brownell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The U.S. food and beverage industry recently released a new front-of-package nutrition labeling system called Facts Up Front that will be used on thousands of food products. Purpose: To test consumer understanding of the Facts Up Front system (Facts Up Front) compared to the Multiple Traffic Light system (Traffic Light). Facts Up Front displays grams/milligrams and percentage daily value information for various nutrients; Traffic Light uses an interpretive color-coded scheme to alert consumers to low, medium, and high levels of certain nutrients. Design: Participants in an Internet-based study were randomized to one of five front-of-package label conditions: (1) no label; (2) Traffic Light; (3) Traffic Light plus information about protein and fiber (Traffic Light+); (4) Facts Up Front; or (5) Facts Up Front plus information about "nutrients to encourage" (Facts Up Front+). Setting/ participants: A total of 703 adults recruited through an online database in May 2011 participated in this study, and data were analyzed in June 2011. Main outcome measures: Total percentage correct quiz scores were generated reflecting participants' ability to compare two foods on nutrient levels, based on their labels, and to estimate amounts of saturated fat, sugar, sodium, fiber and protein in the foods. Results: The front-of-package label groups outperformed the control group on nearly all of the nutrient quizzes (p<0.05). The control group did not differ from the Facts Up Front group on the saturated fat quiz, or from the Facts Up Front+ group on the sugars quiz. Those in the Traffic Light+ group had the best overall performance (>80% on all quizzes). Conclusions: Overall, those in the Traffic Light+ condition performed better than those in the Facts Up Front conditions on measures of nutrition knowledge and label perceptions. Trial registration: This study is registered at clinicaltrials.gov NCT01626729.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-141
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican journal of preventive medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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