Do Americans Really Pay Attention to Food Labels?

Despite obesity levels rising to epidemic proportions, a recent Associated Press-Ipsos survey of some 1,000 Americans found, to my surprise, almost 80 percent claim they read food labels.

Even after reading those labels -- no matter what they say -- 44 percent of the respondents polled still placed those foods into their shopping carts. Moreover, 60 percent of young adults (ages 18-29) who reviewed food labels were more likely to buy unhealthier foods.

As you might expect, women (65 percent) checked out food labels more often than men (51 percent) and more than 80 percent say they pay attention to the nutritional content of foods.

So, why the disconnect? One Harvard professor believes people hedge a bit when they're polled for their opinions on important issues like food labeling or voting. Perhaps, the real reason: Americans consume a third of their daily calories away from home, largely in restaurants where labels are never seen.

Labels and "gentle" warnings aside, however, don't expect the government to do anything more to protect your health. It's up to you to assume total responsibility for the choices you make or don't. Fortunately, you have access to plenty of free tools on my Web site to help you get started.

CNN.com July 6, 2006

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