Food label knowledge : a comparison between a developing and developed country context
Havenga, Susara Carolina
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The aim of this study was to determine and compare the subjective and objective food label knowledge of consumers from Potchefstroom (South Africa) and Fayetteville (Arkansas, USA), therefore in a developing and developed country context. The question was asked whether the knowledge of consumers in such contexts differed and whether consumers’ demographics are associated with their food label knowledge. No specific research on food label knowledge has been done in a comparative context between a developing and developed country previously. A quantitative study using purposive sampling was conducted among respondents in these contexts by means of interviewer-administered questionnaires. Descriptive and inferential statistics were applied. The total study sample (N = 713) included respondents from South Africa (a developing country) and the United States of America (a developed country) with specific reference to respondents from Potchefstroom (n = 400) and Fayetteville (n = 313). The researcher strived to include respondents from each ethnic, demographic, gender and age group. No differences were found regarding respondents’ subjective knowledge (SK) of food labels. With respect to respondents from Potchefstroom and Fayetteville, practically significant differences regarding objective knowledge (OK) were found only within the factors of locating information (OK-L) and manipulating information (OK-M) with a similar pattern for symbol information (OK-S), although respondents from Fayetteville had higher mean scores for OK-L, OK-M and OK-S, which indicates that respondents from Fayetteville were more knowledgeable on these factors than respondents from Potchefstroom. Within the study populations, better OK was only observed among respondents from Potchefstroom who were young and well educated, whereas respondents from Fayetteville had high levels of knowledge regardless of demographic variables. It was observed that respondents from Potchefstroom were not as knowledgeable (OK-L, OK-M and OK-S) as respondents from Fayetteville. The results from this study serve as evidence for a need to improve food label knowledge in the Potchefstroom context, and raise the question about similar needs in other developing countries. It can be concluded that educational efforts should be developed and implemented to increase objective food label knowledge among consumers from developing country contexts, as OK may have an impact on health. Development of consumer education programmes should focus on the vulnerabilities identified with regard to age and education groups as well as the problems identified regarding label and symbol information provided, whereby consumers might acquire optimal food label knowledge to use these labels for improved decision-making and health. This research about food label knowledge in South Africa and the United States of America, may serve as a foundation for future studies to be conducted in developing and developed country contexts. This might result in a better understanding about factors that contribute to consumers’ confusion, distrust and lack of understanding of food label information, which may hinder food label knowledge in developing country contexts. Demographic, label-reading and health-related factors that may contribute to increased knowledge could also be further explored in addressing specific needs among particular groups in developing country contexts regarding their food label knowledge.
- Health Sciences