Exploring consumer knowledge, understanding and use of food and nutrition label information in the tamale metropolis of Ghana
The perception that consumers in low Income Countries have poor knowledge and understanding of food or nutrition labels and, therefore, do not rely on them at the point of purchase is rife. This study was aimed at assessing consumer knowledge and understanding and its influence on food label usage in the Tamale Metropolis of Ghana. An analytical cross-sectional study design was employed and mainly literate adults aged 15 to 60 years were conveniently selected and interviewed at various points-of-purchase including supermarkets, provision shops and other trading outlets. Data were analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) for windows (version 19.0). Percentages were calculated and reported for descriptive statistics whilst chi-square tests of significance and regression analysis were employed to measure relationships between variables. Statistically significant differences were accepted at p<0.05. Out of the 384 consumers interviewed, 98.4% (n=378) were aware of food labels, yet, only 66.7 % (n=256) claimed they understood the labels. A large proportion (95.8%) also claimed they checked but just about 51.9% said they did so “always”. Most (89.3%) claimed they are influenced by key factors on the labels with the level of influence being highest with nutrition content, followed by expiry date, health-claim, price and advertisement respectively. However, at the point-of-purchase most (79.4) revealed they looked out for expiry date. Socio-demographic characteristics including gender (p=0.009), age (p=0.017), occupation (p=0.042), educational level (p=0.022) and income (p=0.051) were significantly associated with consumers’ understanding of the labels, with gender remaining the only significant predictor. Furthermore, age (p=0.054), occupation (p=0.0.007) and educational level (p<0.001) showed significant associations with food label usage. Education level (Tertiary) emerged the only significant predictor of food label usage. The level of knowledge and use of nutrition information on food packages among predominantly literate consumers in the Tamale Metropolis of Ghana can be compared to that of consumers in other parts of the world. These results may inform the need for developing an approach towards future information and education strategies for health professionals and other stakeholders interested in consumer awareness activities.
Keywords: Nutrition label, food Label, Consumer, Point-of-purchase, Nutrition information, Tamale