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Food labels don't stop unhealthy eating habits

/ Source: The Associated Press

People check the labels on food at the grocery store, but it doesn’t stop them from eating what they want, an AP-Ipsos poll found.

Nearly 80 percent of Americans say they check food labels, looking for things like fat and calories and sugars. But 44 percent of people admit that even when the news is not good, they buy the food.

Two-thirds of Americans weigh too much. Why do they bother reading labels?

“I don’t know, force of habit. I want to see what I’m getting myself into,” says Loren Cook, 39, of Marysville, Wash. “It doesn’t make my buying decisions for me. It’s mostly a curiosity factor.”

The AP-Ipsos survey of 1,003 adults, conducted May 30 to June 1, found:

  • Women check labels more frequently than men, 65 percent versus 51 percent. They also place more importance on nutrition content, 82 percent to 64 percent.
  • Married men are more likely to check labels than unmarried men, 76 percent to 65 percent.
  • Younger people are more likely to look at calories on food labels: 39 percent of people between 18 and 29 said they look at calories first. Even so, 60 percent of younger people were more likely to buy foods that are bad for them even after checking the label.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Tammy Fultz, 45, thinks labels are good. She checks whenever she shops for groceries and avoids artery-clogging trans fat.

“But none of that really matters,” says Fultz, who lives in Independence, Ky. “In the end, you still eat way more than you should and exercise way less than you should.”