British Food Journal, vol.125, no.3, pp.1054-1066, 2023 (SCI-Expanded)
© 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited.Purpose: There are many studies investigating people’s eating habits during the COVID-19 period, and people have been encouraged to eat healthier. Healthy nutrition is made possible by making healthy food choices and food labels are one of the tools that help consumers make healthy food choices. Therefore, the primary aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on consumers’ food label reading behaviours and their level of trust in food labels. Design/methodology/approach: This cross-sectional study was conducted on 1,012 adults aged 18–65 years from seven different regions of Turkey. Participants’ food label reading behaviours and their trust in food label information were assessed using an online questionnaire, and COVID-19 fear scores were determined using the fear of COVID-19 scale (FCV-19S). Findings: Although not statistically significant, participants’ rate of reading food labels increased during the pandemic (65.6% vs 68.7%, p = 0.078). On the contrary, trust in label information decreased significantly (52.1% vs 43.9%, p < 0.001). In addition, increased COVID-19 fear was associated with an increased rate of food label reading and decreased trust in the label information (p < 0.001). Research limitations/implications: Because of the study’s cross-sectional nature, the authors cannot provide a causal link between COVID-19 fear and food label reading behaviours and trust in food label information. However, it is difficult to investigate this causal link due to difficulties in studies of consumer behaviour and food choice (e.g. multifactorial effects and complexity). Second, because the present study’s findings were based on self-report data, there may be a risk of resource bias. Nevertheless, the authors think that this study will shed light on future studies as it is the first time that the COVID-19 pandemic has investigated consumers’ food label reading habits and their trust in food labels. Practical implications: Considering the pandemic as an opportunity to change consumer behaviour, it may be useful to provide food label reading education to consumers, especially during this period. In addition, the information given on the label should be clear and understandable for a better understanding of the food label information. Furthermore, it may be beneficial to conduct food inspections more frequently and share the results with the public to increase consumers’ trust in food labels. Moreover, as the food system shifts towards a “new normal”, it is critical for policymakers to understand the changes in consumer perceptions, preferences and trust in foods. Originality/value: COVID-19 fear affected consumers’ food label reading behaviours. As far as the authors know, there is no study about the effects of COVID-19 on consumers’ food label reading behaviours.