Do health claims and front-of-pack labels lead to a positivity bias in unhealthy foods?

29 August 2019

Health claims and front-of-pack labels (FoPLs) may lead consumers to hold more positive attitudes and show a greater willingness to buy food products, regardless of their actual healthiness. A potential negative consequence of this positivity bias is the increased consumption of unhealthy foods. This study investigated whether a positivity bias would occur in unhealthy variations of four products (cookies, corn flakes, pizzas and yoghurts) that featured different health claim conditions (no claim, nutrient claim, general level health claim, and higher level health claim) and FoPL conditions (no FoPL, the Daily Intake Guide (DIG), Multiple Traffic Lights (MTL), and the Health Star Rating (HSR)). Positivity bias was assessed via measures of perceived healthiness, global evaluations (incorporating taste, quality, convenience, etc.) and willingness to buy. On the whole, health claims did not produce a positivity bias, while FoPLs did, with the DIG being the most likely to elicit this bias. The HSR most frequently led to lower ratings of unhealthy foods than the DIG and MTL, suggesting that this FoPL has the lowest risk of creating an inaccurate positivity bias in unhealthy foods.