Gruesome Label Warnings

The Lempert Report
February 16, 2022

In the United States, about 42 percent of adults have obesity according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2018. Estimates are that another third of American adults are overweight. In all, that means more than 73% of adults in the United States are overweight or have obesity. But we have diet plans galore, low calorie and low-fat foods, even surgical procedures to help – but it doesn’t look as if any of those are actually helping. New research from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Global Public Health finds that Bottom of Form parents were 17 percentage points less likely to buy sugary beverages if confronted with the images. "Because parents buy most of the calories their children consume, this type of policy could help reduce kids' intake of sugary drinks," said senior study author and Assistant Professor Lindsey Smith Taillie.

For the study, the researchers created a "mini-mart" to recreate a c-store shopping experience. When 325 parents of kids aged 2 to 12 went shopping, some saw drink labels with graphic images representing the damage of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, while others simply saw a barcode. Parents chose one drink, one snack and one household item for their kids. These graphic and scary picture warnings were a big deterrent. While 45% of parents who saw barcodes on labels bought a sugary drink for their child, only 28% of those who saw the picture warning made the purchase. Now there is no question that using images like these are very controversial – and will make the soda tax fights look lame in comparison. But in 2022 the world is visual – just look at Sally’s Metaverse experience. A simple warning label will not get kids or parents attention. We have to do more before 100% of our population is overweight or obese. We can’t let that happen. Maybe it is time to scare us.