Teens Shop "Healthy", But Trust Label Claims Too Much

UNIVERSITY PARK, Penn. -- "Health concerns" play a significant role when teenagers shop at the supermarket but they, like their parents, still rely too heavily on "lite," "fat-free," "low cholesterol" front-of-the-label nutrition claims, a Penn State study has found.

Christine McCullum a Penn State graduate and her adviser Dr. Cheryl L. Achterberg, professor of nutrition and director of the Penn State Nutrition Center, found that a "health reason" was the second most common category of factors reported for food item selection by the 90 adolescent shoppers included in their study. Health came in second behind a category that included taste/personal preference, custom/habit and price/cost.

However, the teens made their decision about what choices are "healthy" based on front-of-the-label claims rather than the actual nutrition information on the back of the package or can.

Interviews with the young people after their shopping trips showed that they were five times more likely to use front label claims than nutrition labels.

The study included male and female high school students with an average age of 15 and both experienced and inexperienced shoppers. Girls were more likely than boys to use front-of-the-label nutrition claims. However, there were no significant differences between males and females and their use of nutrient labels on the back of the products they purchased.

The Penn State researchers report that a recent survey by Teenage Research Unlimited revealed that as high as 90 percent of teenagers (both boys and girls) shop for their families. They receive $19.2 billion for family food shopping and another $4 billion annually for their own food and snack purchases.

In their report in the journal, Adolescence, the researchers write, "A previous marketing survey conducted by Food and Beverage Marketing and Forecast Magazine in 1988 did not show that health-relat

Contact: Barbara Hale
Penn State

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