An exploratory study on understanding the use of food labels among adolescents in India
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Department of Community Medicine, Banaras Hindu University, India
Publication date: 2023-04-27
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A1017
Background and Objective: Food labelling is identified as a key population-centric approach that can facilitate consumers to make informed food decisions by providing essential information about the food or beverage on the packaging. In the Indian context, where adolescent obesity and the Resultsant diet-related chronic degenerative diseases are rising, it is imperative to understand the perceptions of adolescents regarding unhealthy packaged foods and food labels. This can potentially inform the development of nutrition and health promotion interventions to facilitate healthy eating in Indian adolescents. Methods: A convenience sample of 44 adolescents (aged 10-19 years; 29 boys, 15 girls) were recruited from rural Varanasi, India through professional networks. Face-to-face semi-structured interviews were conducted in Hindi between December 2021 and February 2022. Interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed verbatim, and translated to English. Informed by Template Analysis Technique, the narrative data were analysed thematically using the NVivo Software Program. Results: A number of themes emerged during data analysis. These included: (i) Frequent consumption of packaged food (e.g. potato chips, biscuits, deep-fried Indian snacks; noodles, chocolates) both at school and home; (ii) Lack of awareness about the harmful effects of consuming unhealthy packaged foods; (iii) Reasons for consuming packaged food – tasty, unadulterated; (iv) Date of expiry, price, and brand name were often read by the adolescents; (v) Lack of knowledge about other components (e.g. nutrition information) of the food label; (vi) Difficulty in understanding the food label, as it was written in English; (vii) Food labels should be written in Hindi for easy comprehension. Conclusions: Overall, the study sample was not well-informed about the implications of consuming unhealthy packaged foods as well as the food labels. This highlights the need to develop school-based nutrition education programs which will assist Indian adolescents in making healthy food choices.