A new study brought forth the notion that maybe better labels will stop people from buying sugary drinks that are ultimately damaging to the health. The problem has grown increasingly more serious over the years. It fueled the fire of childhood obesity and diabetes in the United States.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania conducted an online study, polling almost 2,400 parents with children between the ages of 6 and 11 years old. The participants were separated into six groups, each presented with a particular type of sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB).
One group was shown sugary beverages with the standard “calorie table”, informing the parents about its caloric content. Another saw to sugar-riddled drinks with no warning labels, which was the control group. The remaining four groups saw a variation of sugary beverages with specific label warnings on one of their potential consequences, such as diabetes, obesity, or tooth decay. The parents were then asked to decide on whether or not they would purchase the presented drinks for their children.
According to their findings, 60% of parents who saw no labels were willing to buy the SSBs for their children, and 53% of those who saw the standard “calorie table”. In comparison, only 40% of the parents who read the specific warning labels stated that they would purchase the sugary drinks for their children. It brought forth a new potential approach.
The researchers stated that it’s possible labels play a major role in product consumption. Perhaps the same effect could be witnessed for sugary drinks as it was seen in cigarettes.
According to lead author of the study, Dr. Christina Roberto, regardless of the wording, the labels did seem to have an impact on potential customers. The observation has apparently been successful for tobacco users. The graphic images and specific warning labels certainly have had something to do with the decline in smoker rates.
The study was the first of its kind and opened the window for a new solution. By adding the specific potential consequences of abuse of SSBs, it’s possible that parents will become more aware of the health risks. In fact, around 75% of the participants would support adding the specific labels to sugary beverages. It could raise awareness and perhaps target audiences with poorer educational background.
However, according to Sara Folta from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, the issue should take a different approach. Parents should be informed less about soda, and more about the sports drinks and ‘natural juices’. It’s often that they are viewed as the healthier alternative when, in fact, they are not. The natural juices are not always 100% juice.
Folta also stated that the study might’ve inadvertently targeted an audience with a higher education, who are more prone to reading labels and carrying out tasks, such as an online poll.
Another problem is that the impact of specific warning labels could also fade. That is something to take note of. The impact of the warning labels might wear off, as it did for tobacco users in the United States. As stated by Folta, people have become desensitized to the issue. European markets and others, except the United States, have altered the images, made them more impacting, bigger, or more colorful through time. That way, the effect would not wear off. The same should happen in the future for SSBs.
Image source: businesstech.co.za