Effects of interpretive front-of-pack nutrition labels on food purchases: protocol for the Starlight randomised controlled trial.
Volkova E., Neal B., Rayner M., Swinburn B., Eyles H., Jiang Y., Michie J., Ni Mhurchu C.
BACKGROUND: Interpretive front-of-pack nutrition labels are better understood than non-interpretive labels. However, robust evidence on the effects of such labels on consumer food purchases in the real-world is lacking. Our aim is to assess the effects of two interpretive front-of-pack nutrition labels, compared with a non-interpretive label, on the healthiness of consumer food purchases. METHODS/DESIGN: A five-week (1-week baseline and 4-week intervention) three-arm parallel randomised controlled trial will be conducted using a bespoke smartphone application, which will administer study questionnaires and deliver intervention (Multiple Traffic Light and Health Star Rating) and control (Nutrition Information Panel) labels. To view their allocated nutrition label, participants scan the barcode of packaged food products using their smartphone camera. The assigned label is displayed instantly on the smartphone screen.1500 eligible participants (New Zealand adult smartphone owners who shop in a supermarket at least once a week and are main household shoppers) will be randomised in a 1:1:1 ratio to one of the three nutrition label formats, using computer-generated randomisation sequences. Randomisation will be stratified by ethnicity and interest in healthy eating. Food and beverage purchase data will be collected continuously throughout the study via hard copy till receipts and electronic grocery purchase lists recorded and transmitted using the smartphone application. The primary outcome will be healthiness of food purchases in each trial arm, assessed as mean Food Standards Australia New Zealand nutrient profiling score criterion score for all food and beverages purchased over the intervention period. Secondary outcomes will include saturated fat, sugar, sodium and energy content of food purchases; food expenditure; labelling profile of food purchases (i.e. mean number of Health Star Rating stars and proportion of red, green and amber traffic lights); nutrient profiling score over time and by food categories; purchases of unpackaged foods; self-reported nutrition knowledge and recorded use of assigned labelling system. DISCUSSION: The Starlight randomised, controlled trial will determine the effects of interpretive front-of-pack nutrition labels on the healthiness of consumer food purchases in the real world. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12614000644662 (registered 18 June 2014).