Food label reading and understanding in parts of rural and urban Zimbabwe
Background: Overweight and obesity prevalence is rapidly rising in developing countries. The reading and understanding of nutrition information on food packages has been shown to improve food choices and instill healthy eating habits in individuals.
Objective: The aim of this study was to describe the prevalence of food label usage and understanding among urban and rural adults in Zimbabwe and its association with demographic and socio economic factors.
Methods: A cross sectional study was conducted on 320 adults (147 urban and 173 rural) using a validated questionnaire adapted from previous similar studies. Data were analysed using SPSS-17 statistical software.
Results: A high proportion (77.2%) of the respondents read food labels. Food label reading differed significantly by educational status (p<0.05), employment status (p<0.05) and locality (p<0.05). Only 40.9% of food label readers mostly understood the information on the food labels. More urban shoppers (86.1%) read food labels than their rural counterparts (66.7%). A significant number of participants (80.6%) indicated they would like to be educated on the meaning of food labels and 80.3% preferred the nutrition information on food labels to be simplified.
Conclusion: The study found above average reported reading of nutrition information on food labels with partial understanding. Efforts should be made to determine how all consumers could be made to understand the nutrition information on food labels and use it effectively in decision making.
Key Words: food, labels, reading, nutrition, information