Derby University has been using the eye movements of consumers to determine the value of nutritional information of the packaging of food products.

A group of volunteers was given a set of labels to read that were presented on a computer screen. A tracking device was on the computers to monitor the volunteers eye movements while they read. Dr. Gary Jones and Miles Richardson ,psychology lecturers, developed this test as a way to determine what information really grabbed peoples attention.

All of the images and graphic designs where removed from the food labels so all the volunteers could see was the nutritional information about the food. Dr Jones and Richardson state this is because they did not want people to be exposed to other factors that might sway their opinion of a particular product. The volunteers where asked to give each product a rating as to how healthy a product was based solely upon the nutritional data on the label. Most of the group made judgements based just on the fat content of a product.

The traffic light system that the British government is debating on bringing in was also taken into consideration and it appeared to have absolutely no affect on the way that people judged food.

The healthiness ratings of the volunteers really seemed to depend on four factors: the energy, fibre, fat and saturated fat contents of a food product.

According to Dr. Jones, consumers eyes tend to spend the same amount of time looking at all the nutritional information on a food label as they do on these four particular factors. Both Doctor's believe that there is too much information listed on food packages and the confusion this leads to will only be worsened by the traffic light system.

Sodium avoided

This study found that consumers pay the least attention to the sodium content of a food product. This could be a result of sodium being listed toward the bottom of a label or that many shoppers are unaware of what sodium is.

Labels should really be designed so the most important nutritional information is the first thing that draws a consumers attention.

Ninety-two participants of varying ages took part in the study carried out last month. The results will be sent to the Derby Centre for Psychological Research in Human Behaviour and will be published within the next few months.

Almost 100 volunteers of various age groups took part in this research last month. The Derby Centre for Psychological Research in Human Behaviour will be examining the results and will be publishing them within the next few months.

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