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Portion Sizes On Food Labels Often Mislead Consumers Into Overeating

October 27, 2010: 11:04 AM EST

Turkish and American scientists have found that people who rely on portion sizes listed on food labels are often misled into eating more than they intend. Inconsistent portion sizes – small, medium and large vary from one product to another – contribute to consumer confusion about how much to  eat. Size labels in fact “can have a major impact on consumers' purchase and consumption behavior," the authors wrote. In their five studies of people eating, the researchers found that when people consumed a large item labeled "small," they felt less guilty, an effect they termed "guiltless gluttony." The biasing effect of size labels was most evident when people didn’t seem to care about accurate nutrition intake. "Stricter size labeling laws and more vigilant monitoring of marketers' use of size labels may be needed,” the researchers concluded.

Nilüfer Z. Aydinoglu and Aradhna Krishna, "Guiltless Gluttony: The Asymmetric Effect of Size Labels on Size Perceptions and Consumption", Journal of Consumer Research, October 27, 2010, © Journal of Consumer Research
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