Americans Trust Food Labels

They have the most confidence in the nutrition facts, ingredient list and expiration date on food labels.

April 13, 2023

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.—Americans believe food labels, especially when it comes to the nutrition facts, expiration date and ingredient list, according to the March Consumer Food Insights Report from Purdue University’s Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability. The most distrusted labels include low-calorie, naturalness and health claims.

“Generally, consumers trust—or, at least, don’t distrust—the labels on their food. This trust is significantly lower for claims about the health or naturalness of food, claims which may often be more nebulous or more clearly motivated by marketing objectives,” said Jayson Lusk, who leads the center, in a press release.

Utilitarian labels appear to be viewed more favorably. These labels are also the most important to consumers, according to the report. “Among these important labels, the ingredient list and nutrition fact label are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, while expiration dates are not,” Lusk said. “Considering that of all of the information on a food product, the expiration date is one of the primary labels that consumers read, there is an important conversation to be had about standardizing this information.”

Consumers are accurately perceiving a slow decrease in food inflation, noted Sam Polzin, a food and agriculture survey scientist for the center and co-author of the report. “Though their estimate of 7.1% remains below the official government figure of 9.5% for February, both estimates of inflation are following similar trends,” he said. “Part of continuing to see inflation decline will depend on securing food supply.”

Additional key results from this month’s report include:

  • 13% of consumers experienced a stockout, or absence, of one or more items at the grocery store, down from 22% in January.
  • Total food spending is up 5% from this time last year, while food inflation expectations for the next year sit at around 4%.
  • Unemployed adults have the lowest rates of diet happiness, while retirees have the highest.