Label Reading for University Students

D. A. Downes, Claudia Kay Probart, E. L. Mattes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to evaluate comprehension of food labeling in the university student. The release of the new Nutrition Facts food label provided a unique opportunity to assess skill in interpreting the new information provided on the label. One hundred and eighty-four university students enrolled in a basic level nutrition course were tested before receiving classroom education. Each student was given a sample label, test questions on key aspects of the new label, and a short questionnaire on their nutritional habits. This study was unique because it evaluated the label prior to it's general release. Most of the students were single (99%), 120 were female (65%) and 64 male (35%). The majority of the students reported that they read food labels frequently (57%), primarily looking for the fat and calorie content. Weight control and general health were given as the most frequent reasons for reading labels. Overall, the students were highly successful in answering the test questions averaging 81% correct out of 14 questions. The majority of the students, however, were unable to use the information provided on the label to calculate the percent of calories coming from fat or adjust the % Daily Value for individual needs. Specifically, 58% were unable to determine percent of calories coming from fat, 65% were unable to calculate the % Daily Value of total fat for someone with reduced caloric needs, and 47% were unable to calculate the carbohydrate recommendation for an increased caloric requirement. Improvements in these values were seen following a classroom intervention. It is of concern that without prior education, college students were unable to interpret key areas of basic food label information. Following instruction, an improvement of 17% was seen on the question relating to the percent of calories coming from fat. A smaller improvement was seen in the other areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of the American Dietetic Association
Issue number9 SUPPL.
StatePublished - Sep 1 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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