Consumer Understanding, Perception and Interpretation of Serving Size Information on Food Labels: A Scoping Review

Van der Horst, Klazine; Bucher, Tamara; Duncanson, Kerith; Murawski, Beatrice; Labbe, David (2019). Consumer Understanding, Perception and Interpretation of Serving Size Information on Food Labels: A Scoping Review Nutrients, 11(9), pp. 1-20. Molecular Diversity Preservation International (MDPI) 10.3390/nu11092189

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Theincreaseinpackagedfoodandbeverageportionsizeshasbeenidentifiedasapotential factorimplicatedintheriseoftheprevalenceofobesity. Inthiscontext,theobjectiveofthissystematic scopingreviewwastoinvestigatehowhealthyadultsperceiveandinterpretservingsizeinformation on food packages and how this influences product perception and consumption. Such knowledge is needed to improve food labelling understanding and guide consumers toward healthier portion size choices. A search of seven databases (2010 to April 2019) provided the records for title and abstract screening, with relevant articles assessed for eligibility in the full-text. Fourteen articles met the inclusion criteria, with relevant data extracted by one reviewer and checked for consistency by a second reviewer. Twelve studies were conducted in North America, where the government regulates serving size information. Several studies reported a poor understanding of serving size labelling. Indeed, consumers interpreted the labelled serving size as a recommended serving for dietary guidelines for healthy eating rather than a typical consumption unit, which is set by the manufacturer or regulated in some countries such as in the U.S. and Canada. Not all studies assessed consumption; however, larger labelled serving sizes resulted in larger self-selected portion sizes in three studies. However, another study performed on confectionary reported the opposite effect, with largerlabelledservingsizesleadingtoreducedconsumption. Thelimitednumberofincludedstudies showedthatlabelledservingsizeaffectsportionsizeselectionandconsumption,andthatanylabelled serving size format changes may result in increased portion size selection, energy intake and thus contribute to the rise of the prevalence of overweight and obesity. Research to test cross-continentally labelled serving size format changes within experimental and natural settings (e.g., at home) are needed. In addition, tailored, comprehensive and serving-size-specific food literacy initiatives need to be evaluated to provide recommendations for effective serving size labelling. This is required to ensure the correct understanding of nutritional content, as well as informing food choices and consumption, for both core foods and discretionary foods. Keywords: serving size; portion size; food labeling; nutrition facts label; back of pack; front of pack; health framing

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


School of Health Professions
School of Health Professions > Nutrition and Dietetics


Van der Horst, Klazine0000-0001-7265-428X;
Bucher, Tamara;
Duncanson, Kerith;
Murawski, Beatrice and
Labbe, David




Molecular Diversity Preservation International (MDPI)




Klazine Van der Horst

Date Deposited:

12 Nov 2019 11:04

Last Modified:

18 Dec 2020 13:29

Publisher DOI:





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