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The impact of a gluten-free claim on the perceived healthfulness, calories, level of processing and expected taste of food products

Prada, Marília, Godinho, Cristina, Rodrigues, David L., Lopes, Carla, Garrido, Margarida V.
Food quality and preference 2019 v.73 pp. 284-287
eating habits, energy content, females, gluten-free foods, healthy diet, issues and policy, packaging, taste
In recent years, gluten-free (GF) diet has become quite popular among non-celiac individuals and GF versions are now available for an array of processed foods.In this study, we examined how including a GF label in packaging impacts the evaluation of food products in several evaluative dimensions. Participants (N = 202; 63.2% female, Mage = 27.87, SD = 10.72) were presented with images of four food products and asked to evaluate the healthfulness, caloric content, expected taste and level of processing of each product. Overall, results showed that GF (vs. control) products were perceived as more healthful, as having fewer calories and as less processed. No main effect of the GF label was observed for expected taste. In some cases, the impact of the GF label was moderated by the type of product. These findings were independent of participants’ positive beliefs toward GF diet, and of their low self-reported knowledge about GF products. Our findings clarify a potential source of bias for the consumer and may inform evidence-based strategies or policies aiming to promote healthy eating habits.