CDC Study: Some Consumers Confused about Sodium Labels


A new study from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sheds light on whether consumers use sodium information on food labels and how well they understand it.

The researchers used two national cross-sectional mail panel surveys to gather responses from 3,729 American adults. The results revealed that more than half (57.9 percent) of the respondents said they or the person who shops for them buy items labeled “low salt” or “low sodium” and most (55.8 percent) said they knew how to monitor the amount of salt they eat based on the information provided on nutrition labels. In addition, 46.8 percent said they check the sodium content on nutrition labels as a way to limit salt.

However, nearly one in five (19.3 percent) respondents admitted they’re confused about how to figure out how much sodium is in the foods they eat, and one in eight (13.2 percent) said they’re confused about how to use the Nutrition Facts label to figure out this information. Some subgroups were more likely to report being confused about sodium. These included respondents with less education, lower incomes, a diabetes diagnosis, or who were older, black or Hispanic.

Retail dietitians are in a prime position to help consumers—especially those in vulnerable subgroups—better understand and use sodium information on food labels. Proposed updates to the Nutrition Facts label will likely change the daily value for sodium from 2,400 mg to 2,300 mg, so even shoppers who are adept label readers might need an update.

Source: Levings JL, Maalouf J, Tong X, Cogswell ME. Reported Use and Perceived Understanding of Sodium Information on US Nutrition Labels. Prev Chronic Dis 2015;12:140522. 

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