Unlike conventional foods, supplemented foods are prepackaged foods containing one or more added supplemental ingredients, such as vitamins, mineral nutrients, amino acids, and caffeine, which have historically been marketed as providing specific physiological benefits or health effects. These ingredients can pose a health risk if overconsumed by the general population or if consumed by certain vulnerable populations such as children or those who are pregnant. Consumer perspectives of a proposed risk-based multicomponent supplemented food labelling strategy to protect the health and safety of Canadians were explored using virtual discussion groups with participants (n = 88) of varying socio-demographics and health literacy levels.
Thematic content analysis of the discussions was conducted using core health literacy competencies of accessibility, understanding, and appraisal of the risk-based product labelling information. The front-of-package supplemented food caution identifier was attention grabbing and conveyed a message to search out and carefully consider the Supplemented Food Facts table and cautionary labelling elements on the back of the package. These back-of-package labelling elements enhanced awareness of the supplemental ingredients and the specific cautions for use of the supplemented food. This risk-based product labelling strategy, with multiple components, was perceived to be a useful strategy for distinguishing supplemented foods from conventional foods and enhancing awareness of the cautionary labelling.
Educational strategies will be required to ensure that the health and safety risks associated with supplemented foods are understood so that consumers can make more informed consumption decisions.