US consumers ‘sorely lack’ nutritional literacy, according to IFIC survey

Photo: IFIC

A majority of consumers, 78%, said that they encounter a lot of conflicting information about what to eat and avoid, according to a new survey by the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC).

Results came from an online survey of 1,002 Americans ages 18-80, conducted over 19 days in March 2017 and weighted by age, education, gender, race/ethnicity, and region. (You can find the full report HERE).

“As in previous years, the Food and Health Survey has shown that Americans feel overwhelmed by conflicting food and nutrition information,” said IFIC Foundation CEO Joseph Clayton. “But this year, we’re finding troubling signs that the information glut is translating into faulty decisions about our diets and health.”

Some key findings from the survey:

Only 45% could identify single food or nutrient associated with health benefit

Almost all respondents (96%) said that they seek out health bnefits from what they eat and drink, with the top benefits being weight loss, cardiovascular health, energy, and digestive health.

But only 45% of those respondents could identify a single food or nutrient associated with those benefits, the survey found. “For example, while sources of omega-3 fatty acids such as fish oil can contribute to heart health, just 12% made an association between them,” according to IFIC.

More than half of the respondents, at 56%, said that conflicting information about what to eat and avoid makes them doubt the food choices they make.

How ‘health halos’ affect consumer decisions

Form of food and place of purchase strongly affect the consumer’s perception of what is healthful, something IFIC described as a ‘mental shortcut.’

Even with nutritionally identical products, consumers are five times as likely to believe a fresh product is healthier than canned and four times as likely to believe a fresh product is healthier than frozen, according to survey results.

Consumers are also more likely to believe a product that is more expensive (in this example, $2) is healthier than an identical product that costs 99 cents.

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