Around 18% of Europeans regularly look for nutrition information on food packaging in-store, according to a pan-European study.

The research by the European Food Information Council (EUFIC) showed that the better-established forms of nutrition information on labels such as the Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) scheme, are widely recognised and understood by shoppers.

"While there are several nutrition labelling schemes across Europe, our findings show that people recognise them and generally know how to use them to make informed nutrition choices," said Professor Klaus Grunert of the University of Aarhus, Denmark, who conducted the study for EUFIC. "Nutrition labelling should be seen as a key element in a rounded public health strategy."

Of those surveyed, the Nutrition Table was the most frequently mentioned source of nutrition information in Germany, Sweden, Hungary and Poland, while more than 53% of shoppers in the UK and 44% in France looked for nutrition information in the GDA labelling system. 

In countries where food additives were identified as important information (Hungary, France and Poland), the ingredients table was also cited.

Colour coded schemes such as traffic lights also met with high levels of awareness but were open to some misinterpretation as people tended to exaggerate the meaning of the colour-coded levels, with 73% of people believing that a 'red' light indicated they should avoid eating a product.

The study found that shoppers are most likely to look for nutrition information when buying yogurts, breakfast cereals and ready meals, and calories was the information most frequently sought by shoppers in four out of the six markets.

However, UK consumers looked for fat content before calories, whilst Swedish consumers looked equally for sugar and fat followed by calories. Other information sought included food additives, vitamins and fibre.