Background The US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) fortification policy discourages the fortification of certain foods, including sugars and snack foods such as cookies, candies, cakes, chips, and carbonated beverages, yet manufacturers sometimes add vitamins and minerals to snack foods.
Objective To assess whether vitamin-fortified snack foods affect consumers' information-seeking, purchase decisions, and product-related health perceptions.
Design For this experimental study, participants were randomly assigned to study conditions to compare products that varied in product type, nutrition profile, and fortification and nutrient claim status. Data were collected via an online consumer panel.
Participants/setting US adults aged 18 years and older were randomly selected from Research Now's e-panel online household panel. Data were collected during fall 2014 (N=5,076).
Intervention Participants were randomly assigned to one of 24 conditions: two products (vegetable chip/potato chip), two nutrition profiles (healthier/less healthy), two fortification scenarios (not fortified/fortified), and three nutrient claim conditions (two no claim/one with claim). The design was not balanced; claims were not shown on products that were not vitamin fortified.
Main outcome measures Outcome measures were information-seeking (viewed the Nutrition Facts label), purchase decisions, perception of product health-fulness, and correct selection of product with the healthier nutrient profile.
Statistical analysis performed Logistic regression was used to test all models. Analyses was adjusted for general label use, consumes product, health status, age, sex, level of education, presence of children in the household, and race/ethnicity.
Results When the snack food carried a nutrient claim for vitamin fortification, participants were 1) less likely to look for nutrition information on the Nutrition Facts label, 2) more likely to select the product for purchase, 3) more likely to perceive the product as healthier, and 4) less likely to correctly choose the healthier product.
Conclusions Snack foods that have been vitamin-fortified may cause consumers to make poor dietary decisions. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2017;117:376-385.