Confusing food labels 'lead to obesity'

09th December 2013 - Fine Cut

Consumers who are confused about food labels could be making the wrong choices when it comes to selecting items during their weekly shop.

A new study carried out by Nutrition Australia Queensland (NAQ) has suggested that complicated information found on the side of food packages is contributing to the problem of obesity in the country.

In fact, the findings - published in the Courier Mail - revealed up to 96 per cent of Queensland residents are unable to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy food choices.

What's more, nutritionists from the body argued that marketing messages displayed on the labels of packaged foods combined with confusion over what makes a healthy meal are significant factors playing a role in the state's obesity crisis.

Aloysa Hourigan, senior nutritionist at NAQ, said: "People are choosing foods that are often marketed as healthy but actually contain high amounts of sugar, fat and salt.

"A lot of diet fads and marketing messages have added to the confusion. Many people are passing up healthy foods in favour of poor choices."

The survey identified high-sugar breakfast cereals, calorie-heavy salad dressings and frozen yoghurt among the biggest sources of confusion for consumers, who often believe they are making the healthy choice when selecting these options.

Ms Hourigan noted that a lack of education on the dangers of eating foods that are high in calories, salt, fat and sugar is also contributing to the obesity problem. She noted that more needs to be done to help people make the right decisions when it comes to purchasing food.

The study's findings could have wider implications for manufacturing companies, which are hoping to keep consumers informed about the ingredients found in particular products. Clear and concise labels have been cited among the main factors that could help individuals to eat a healthy and nutritious diet.

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