A Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity study has compared the U.S. food industry’s “Facts Up Front” labeling scheme to the “Multiple Traffic Light” system used in the United Kingdom, concluding that consumers found both front-of-package systems easier to use than no labels at all, while an enhanced Traffic Light system yielded “the best overall performance.” Christina Roberto, et al., “Facts Up Front Versus Traffic Light Food Labels,” American Journal of Preventative Medicine, July 2012.  

Researchers asked 708 adults in an Internet-based survey to compare the nutrient levels of foods as well as estimate saturated fat, sugar, sodium, fiber and protein contents using one of five systems: (i) no label; (ii) Traffic Light;(iii) Traffic Light “plus information about protein and fiber (Traffic Light+)”; (iv) Facts up Front; or (v) Facts Up Front “plus information about ‘nutrient to encourage’ (Facts Up Front+).” The results evidently indicated that respondents using the Traffic light+ labels “performed better than those in the Facts Up Front conditions on measures of nutrition knowledge and label perceptions.”  

“The findings… suggest that a front-of-package nutrition label can improve the accuracy of judgments about the nutritional quality of foods and beverages,” concluded the study. “When individuals compared two products on sugar, saturated fat, and sodium levels only, the Facts Up Front system was most helpful. However, when individuals also compared products based on protein and fiber, the Facts Up Front+ and Traffic Light+ groups… performed equally well. In contrast, when participants judged the levels of specific nutrients in individual products, both versions of the Traffic Light labels were substantially more helpful than the Facts Up Front labels.”