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packaged foods, the question then focuses on consumer use of such information. USDA’s Diet and Health Knowledge Survey examined the question of frequency of use of nutrition labels in its 1995–1996 and 2005–2006 surveys (Todd and Variyam, 2008). The reported frequency of use of the information is shown in Table 2-3.

Consumer indications that they “always/often” used the Nutrition Facts panel increased by 4 percentage points between 1995–1996 and 2005–2006 but decreased by 2 percentage points for this category of use for salt/sodium information. In terms of responses to “never” using label information, there was a 5 percentage point increase for the Nutrition Facts panel and a 10 percentage point increase for the salt/sodium information. Therefore, during the 10 years between surveys, there was greater decline in the use of salt/sodium information than in the overall use of the Nutrition Facts panel. The decreased use of sodium information paralleled decreases in the use of information on calories, total and saturated fat, and cholesterol; conversely, increased use of information on fiber and sugar was reported during this same time period.

In today’s environment, consumers are exposed to many diet and health messages that may seem contradictory or confusing (Derby and Fein, 1995). How do shoppers who are concerned about the nutritional content of the foods they eat rank concerns about sodium compared to other nutrients? As shown in Figure 2-3, compared to other nutrients, sodium does not appear to be the top concern in the minds of consumers (Food Marketing Institute, 2004). From 1997 to 2004, the major concern has been fat, with sodium and other nutrients of lesser concern.

These data also show that shoppers’ concerns with salt and sodium intake declined from 24 percent in 1998 to 14 percent in 2004. Conversely,

TABLE 2-3 Reported Frequency of Use of the Nutrition Facts Panel and Salt/Sodium Labeling

 

Frequency of Use (%)

Change (percentage points)

1995–1996

2005–2006

Nutrition Facts Panel

 

 

 

Never

22

27

+5

Rarely

13

10

−3

Sometimes

30

23

−7

Always/often

35

39

+4

Salt/Sodium Information

 

 

 

Never

12

22

+10

Rarely

22

19

−3

Sometimes

30

25

−5

Always/often

36

34

−2

SOURCE: Todd and Variyam, 2008.



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