Understanding Food Labels


  • Carol Hamilton Clemson University Cooperative Extension, Spartanburg County
  • Brian Raison The Ohio State University




Consumers, Food Labels, Government-regulated Labels, Third-party Labels, Understanding of Food Labels


Have you ever made a purchase based on a food label? Everyone gives food labels a cursory glance, but for the many consumers who wish to make purchasing decisions that reflect their personal and social values, food labels are critical. How do you decipher the myriad of new symbols, logos, certifi­cation claims, and sometimes meaningless informa­tion presented in today’s marketplace? How do you know which labels contain statements that are not regulated by governmental agencies? Can you differentiate third-party certifications from private company claims? In this commentary, we categorize and review a broad array of new label varieties, claims, certifications, and regulations. We then describe a new online, interactive resource for con­sumers to help them improve their understanding of food labels. Finally, we inventory additional teaching tools and resources that may provide educators with other food label curricula for consumers.

See the press release for this article. 


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Author Biographies

Carol Hamilton, Clemson University Cooperative Extension, Spartanburg County

4-H Youth Development Agent

Brian Raison, The Ohio State University

Associate Professor, Department of Extension



How to Cite

Hamilton, C., & Raison, B. (2019). Understanding Food Labels. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 8(4), 13–22. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2019.084.022