It is possible for a country to be economically and socially powerful and wealthy, with individuals in the country being healthy. The most important condition for reaching such a social structure; society has a healthy food consumption and a conscious understanding of nutrition.
Food literate individuals, food, nutrients, food groups, nutrition, nutritional diseases etc. know the meaning of the terms related to food and nutrition terminology, and interpret the messages in images such as food labels, food plate, food pyramid correctly (Aktaş and Özdoğan, 2016:149). Miller and Cassady (2015) state that individuals with food literacy can choose healthier foods by getting help from food labels. Parmenter and Wardle (1999) state that it is possible to reach more clear and confusing information in getting rid of the complexity of food literacy and dieting. Drichoutis, Lazaridis and Nayga (2006) state that consumers receive support from the food label to avoid negative foods in packaged food products, thus affecting their buying behavior. Ronto, Ball, Pendergast and Harris (2016) found that in their studies, young people attach importance to food safety and hygiene, and if they have the right information, it will be easier for them to make a healthy food choice.
The importance of proper nutrition is obvious for building healthy communities in the future. The aim of this study is to measure the food label literacy of young people who will become adults of the future, especially in light of the fact that packaged foods have an important place in today's food consumption.
According to the Turkish Food Codex Food Labeling and Consumer Information Regulation, the information contained in packaged food labels will contribute to creating a healthy food purchase choice by understanding and interpreting them correctly. It is thought that the study carried out to draw attention to the level of food literacy will be useful in developing a functional scale in this area. The lack of a functional question form developed on the measurement of “food and nutrition literacy” in both the International and national literature makes the question form sought in this study more meaningful and useful, as well as it is thought that it will be useful to reach a healthier society by opening the subject to academic debate.
In this study, a questionnaire was prepared to determine the level of food label literacy based on the Turkish Food Codex Food Labeling and Consumer Information Regulation.
This research is a descriptive study for its purpose. Based on the data obtained with the questionnaire; it is aimed to understand the food literacy levels of young participants and to obtain descriptive data that can shed light on other “food literacy” studies in this field.
In the Turkish Food Codex Food Labeling and Consumer Information Regulation, the provisions that should be included in the food product labels are taken into consideration. Young consumers' understanding of nutritional values on food product labels; it was tried to be determined with the help of 348 data collected between the dates of 01.05.2019 - 30.05.2019 over a sample determined through easy sampling throughout Muğla province. Since the data used in the study was collected before 01.01.2020, an ethics committee permit document is not required. The participants of the study were selected from individuals aged between 15-29. The questionnaire used consists of 2 parts. In the first part, questions were asked to measure the demographic characteristics of the participants. In the second part, there are questions created to determine the comprehensibility of the food information that should be written on the packaged food products within the scope of the Turkish Food Codex Food Labeling and Consumers Information Regulation.
“Food and nutrition literacy” levels of consumers were tried to be understood in order to provide correct/incorrect answers about certain information provided to them with the help of an expert on food and nutrition.
52.5% of the participants are women, 47.7% are men, 75.3% continue their education life, 82.8% have high school and university level education, and 40.5% age distribution. 15-19, 31.9% of them are between the ages of 20-24 and 27.6% of them are between the ages of 25-29. It is seen that the most noticeable label information is 60.6% contributions. This is followed by calories (17.0%) and fats (7.8%), respectively. It is seen that the participants have an average of 50.7% correct and 49.3% incorrect information in energy related question groups. Participants had the correct knowledge that walnuts are a good energy source (77.9%); it is seen that they do not have enough information about the amount of calories to be taken (31.6%), cocoa (45.7%) and coffee (47.7%). When the answers to the questions about the oils were examined, it was determined that the participants had an average of 55.3% correct and 44.7% wrong information. It was concluded that the participants were knowledgeable about the harms of trans fatty acids (77.9%), the butter in saturated fats being least harmful than others (64.9%), and generally avoiding fats. However, it was found that they did not know that unsaturated fats were accepted as good fats (68.1%) and saw red meat directly as a bad source of cholesterol (58.9%). According to the answers given by the participants to the questions regarding carbohydrate / sugar, it was discovered that they had 54.5% correct and 45.5% false information. It was observed that they had a high level of knowledge about carbohydrates (68.4%) and that they had 85.9% wrong information, especially that brown sugar was healthier than white sugar. When questions about proteins are examined, 65.8% of participants have accurate information. It was revealed that the benefits of meat, fish, eggs and milk in terms of protein are well known (93.4%) and that vegetables are a source of protein (66.1%) are not well known. When the questions about salt are examined, it is seen that the rate of having correct information among the participants remains at 47.1%. It is observed that 90.8% of the daily salt consumption should not exceed 10 grams in particular. It was revealed that the participants knew that the expression of sodium chloride in the food labels means salt, by 73.9%. It was determined that the participants had the correct knowledge of 66.4% about vitamins. It can be said that awareness about C and B vitamins (69%) is high. It is seen that the participants have 63% correct information on fiber related questions. It is seen that the contribution of fiber foods to feel fullness (67.2%) and to the digestive system (67.2%) is known, and the contribution of fiber foods to regulate blood cholesterol and blood sugar is not known enough (47.1%).
The fact that young consumers pay attention to the labels of packaged foods that they buy most shows that they have a high level of awareness in this regard.
Although 60.6% of the participants are the additives of the information they pay most attention to, the 67.8% of the questions about the additives are incorrect. It is especially suggestive that 88.5% of respondents who have a misconception that foodstuffs starting with the Code” E " are harmful to human health. However, the fact that E code is given to an additive also means that it is found safe by the European Union and the European Federation of Food Additives and Food Enzymes (Winter, 2009: 106). The aim is to inform consumers by classifying additives.
It is clear that according to the Turkish Food Codex Food Labeling and Consumer Information Regulation, the correct understanding and interpretation of the information contained in the packaged food labels will contribute to creating a healthy food purchase preference.
It is useful to position the necessary efforts to gain food label literacy skills within the education system. With the development of the idea of healthy eating, the producers of packaged food in addition to the legal obligation to provide information to be educational to consumers will increase the preferability of their products. It can be expected that the improvements to be achieved in holistic terms will also contribute positively to the purchasing processes of consumers and will lead to Planned purchasing behavior.
In future studies; beside some demographic, socio-economic group variables of consumers' reading / not reading labels; specialization can be provided by associating with some social theories such as planned purchasing theory. On the other hand, it is thought that carrying out studies to examine the conditions of those who show food label reading behavior and those who do not, will help to understand the importance of food literacy in terms of health.
As the aim of the study was to determine the level of literacy, no further analysis was provided. In later studies, more comprehensive analyses will be able to be adhered to by investigating the effect of literacy level on consumer purchasing processes.