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Did Implementing Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) of 1990 Improve Diet?

By Jebaraj Asirvatham, Paul E. McNamara and Katherine R. Baylis


Nutrition labeling, in the words of the then FDA commissioner, David Kessler, was to “help millions of Americans make more informed, healthier choices.” Although the NLEA primarily focused on standardizing the nutrition facts label, its implementation also involved an informational and educational campaign on how to use the new nutrition facts label and the benefits of using it. Evidently label use more than doubled between 1989-91 and 1994-96. Most of the studies provide evidence of the effects of nutrition label use by comparing label users against non-users using data after NLEA was in effect. Using pseudo-panel data method, we find that implementing NLEA did not improve diet quality but use of labels did. Further, label usage showed no improvement in diet quality within a cohort but it did reveal significant differences among or between cohorts. We also test for differences in diet quality between the two periods by comparing individuals of similar characteristics using a non-parametric approach, the Mahalnobis distance matching technique. Differences across the two periods would be tested at different quantiles of the diet quality with an emphasis on label use and education levels.Nutrition, diet, nutrition facts label, Food Consumption/Nutrition/Food Safety,

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