'Traffic light' food labeling lead to healthier food choices, study finds

A study by the Massachusetts General Hospital has found that color-coding food items with red, green and yellow helped its staff members make healthier food choices.


NSFW    BOSTON — A new study by Massachusetts General Hospital has found that using "traffic light" colors — red, yellow and green — in labeling food items results in healthier food choices.

The study took place over a two-year period. Participants were 5,695 employees who ate at the hospital's workplace cafeteria.

Researchers assigned the color green to the healthiest food. Food labeled in yellow were less healthy than the ones labeled green, while those marked in red were the least healthy.

According to the study, each food item was labeled based on whether it contained healthy ingredients such as fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein or whether it contained saturated fat and caloric content.

Researchers tracked participants' purchases before and after the labels were added, via their employee ID numbers. They found that purchases of green-labeled food increased while those for red-labeled food products decreased.

The study noted that the estimated reduction in calories was equal to around two kilograms of weight loss over time.

In a Massachusetts General Hospital news release, lead author of the study Anne N. Thorndike said the study not only shows employees consuming fewer calories at work, but also that they were improving the quality of the calories they were purchasing."

"Traffic light" food labeling is already in use in countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia, but has yet to be put in use in the U.S.
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