Consumers' (in)ability to estimate the energy content of unhealthy foods

Authors

  • Simone Pettigrew,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
    • Correspondence: S. Pettigrew, School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health, The University of Western Australia, M408, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, Perth, WA 6009, Australia. Email: simone.pettigrew@uwa.edu.au

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  • Michael Rosenberg,

    1. School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
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  • Renee Ferguson

    1. School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
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  • Simone Pettigrew, PhD, Professor
  • Michael Rosenberg, PhD, Associate Professor
  • Renee Ferguson, BHSc(Hons), Research Associate

Abstract

Aim

To assess consumers' ability to estimate the energy content of fast foods purchased at a community event.

Methods

Patrons (n = 179; 59 male, 120 female) attending the Perth Royal Show in Western Australia in October 2011 estimated the energy content of three popular Show foods—a regular serve of hot chips, a Dagwood Dog (battered sausage) and a can of regular soft drink. Respondents were shown images of the three products to ensure they understood the items in question. They were able to respond in the energy measure of their choice (kilojoules or calories). Age, gender and postcode data were collected.

Results

Average estimates for the three products were very high, ranging from 72% overestimation for the hot chips to 203% overestimation for the soft drink. There were few significant differences in error rates by age, gender or socioeconomic status.

Conclusions

The results suggest substantial knowledge deficits relating to the energy content of fast foods and indicate the need for community education about the nature of food energy and its relationship to healthy food choices.

Ancillary