Nutrition in the workplace

Labelling trialled in the BU cafe

Bournemouth University’s Dr Heather Hartwell has been awarded a $3,000 Global Education Grant from Montclair University, USA to continue her work on menu labelling.

It is in response to preliminary research conducted in the BU staff restaurant, which showed food labels detailing the number of calories in a product have no bearing on menu choices.

As Dr Hartwell explained respondents showed ‘no preference for numbers or symbols’, both being equally ignored.

Alongside Dr Charles Feldman at Montclair, Dr Hartwell will study the best way to indicate a healthy option. Through focus groups conducted both here and in the US they have already come up with a method that they will test in the US in March 2012 and then in the UK later in the year.

The research is in response to the growing trend for companies to provide employees with information on healthy lifestyles and actively encourage positive food choice within the staff restaurant. Dr Hartwell’s research may ensure this is done in the most effective way possible.

“There is a relationship between the food we eat and the food choices surrounding us,” she said. “‘Foodscape’ is the term given to geographical food provision and, if well managed, could be a key influence on improved food intake.

“Health and wellbeing in the workplace benefits both employees and companies and is regarded as important internationally. The workplace offers an appropriate setting to promote wellbeing as approximately 60% of adult waking hours are spent at work.”

Following testing at Montclair University and in the UK, Dr Hartwell plans to test the effectiveness of the program in care homes as well. She also plans to use BU’s eye-tracker equipment to determine the best place to locate the healthy option on a menu.