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You Own It, You'll Eat It
Date:2/2/2009

Expired or slightly 'off' food? If it's in your fridge, chances are you'll try it, experts say

MONDAY, Feb. 2 (HealthDay News) - Wondering whether to partake of that expired yogurt at the back of the fridge? What about that hunk of cheese with the bit of mold on top?

If you're like most Americans, you'll take the chance, a new study shows. In fact, spoiled or past-due foods that most people would quickly reject at the supermarket are much more eagerly consumed once they make it home.

That's because consumers are more likely to eat dubious foods once they actually own them, another sign of how people unconsciously give more value to things that are theirs, researchers say.

"We try to come up with justifications about why it's OK to consume what we already own and downplay the reasons why it might not be OK," said study co-author Lauren Block, a professor of marketing at Baruch College in New York City.

Block and her team aimed to examine the so-called "endowment effect." This refers to the extra value people give to things that they own. Studies have shown, for example, that people will sell a product they own for a much higher price than they'd be willing to pay to buy it from someone else.

In the new study, to be published in the June issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, the Baruch team examined data from 165 students who were questioned about their yogurt preferences. The students were given a yogurt smoothie that was past its "best if enjoyed by" date but was still safe to eat. Those in the "endowed" group were told the yogurt was theirs to keep.

Thirty-eight percent of those in the latter group were willing to drink the smoothie either right then or later. But only 13 percent of the students who didn't own the yogurt were willing to drink the smoothie. Those who were told to keep their smoothie were also less likely to think it would make them sick.

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