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The health halo effect: Don't judge a food by its organic label
Date:4/10/2011

s. All of the products, however, were actually of the organic variety they were just labeled as being "regular" or "organic." Participants were then asked to rate each food for 10 different attributes (e.g., overall taste, perception of fat content) using a scale from 1 to 9. She also asked them to estimate the number of calories in each food item and how much they would be willing to pay. As part of the scientific program of the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting, results from this study will be presented on April 10 at the Experimental Biology 2011 meeting.

Confirming Lee's health halo hypothesis, the subjects reported preferring almost all of the taste characteristics of the organically-labeled foods, even though they were actually identical to their conventionally-labeled counterparts. The foods labeled "organic" were also perceived to be significantly lower in calories and evoked a higher price tag. In addition, foods with the "organic" label were perceived as being lower in fat and higher in fiber. Overall, organically-labeled chips and cookies were considered to be more nutritious than their "non-organic" counterparts.

So, not only is there a health halo emanating from organic foods, but it's strong and consistent at least for cookies, chips, and yogurt. Although Lee is the first to acknowledge that her study was limited in the variety of foods tested, she is confident that this effect is real and has important implications as to what, and how much, people eat, especially those who preferentially seek out foods carrying an "organic" seal. Additional studies will be needed before we know whether these perceived taste and nutrition attributes result in greater consumption of organic versus conventional foods.

Until that time, remember not to judge a book (or a cookie) by its cover (or its organic label).


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Contact: Suzanne Price
sprice@nutrition.org
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Source:Eurekalert

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