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Organic food labels 'trick' us into thinking food is healthier and tastier
Perceptions of taste, calories and value can be significantly altered
when a food is labelled 'organic'Organic foods were estimated to have significantly fewer calories and taste lower in fat
Customers were also willing to pay 23% more for them
14:51 GMT, 2 April 2013
07:06 GMT, 3 April 2013
Putting an organic label on ordinary foods can trick shoppers into believing that they are healthier, taste better and have fewer calories, new research suggests.
Known as the 'health halo effect', previous studies have shown that we perceive foods labelled as organic to be healthier.
Now, scientists at New York’s Cornell University have found the label can influence much more than health views – perceptions of taste, calories and value can be significantly altered
when a food is labelled 'organic'.
Putting an organic label on ordinary foods can trick shoppers into believing that they are healthier, taste better and have fewer calories
They recruited 115 people were recruited from a local shopping centre to participate in the study.
Participants were asked to evaluate three pairs of products: two yogurts, two cookies and two bags of crisps.
One item from each food pair was labelled 'organic', while the other was labelled 'regular'.
What they didn't realise was that each of the product pairs were organic and identical.
The volunteers were asked to rate the taste and calorie content of each item, and how much they would be willing to pay for the items.
A questionnaire also inquired about their environmental and shopping habits.
Even though the foods were all the same, the 'organic' label greatly influenced people’s perceptions.
Volunteers who thought certain types of yogurt and cookies were organic estimated them to have significantly fewer calories and people willing to pay up to 23 per cent more for them
The cookies and yogurt were estimated to have significantly fewer calories when labeled 'organic' and people were willing to pay up to 23.4 per cent more for them.
The nutritional aspects of these foods were also greatly biased by the 'health halo' effect, the researchers found.
The 'organic' cookies and yogurt were said to taste ‘lower in fat than the regular variety, and the 'organic' cookies and crisps were thought to be more nutritious.
The label even tricked people’s taste buds: when perceived as 'organic', crisps seemed more appetising and yogurt was judged to be more flavorful.
Conversely, 'regular' cookies were reported to taste better-possibly because people often believe healthy foods are not tasty.
But the researchers found that people who regularly read nutrition labels, those who regularly buy organic food, and those who recycling are less susceptible to the organic ‘health halo’ effect.