Washington: Studies have shown that "organic" label can lead us to think that a food is healthier, through what is known as the 'health halo effect'. But a study by Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab researchers Lee, Shimizu, Kniffin and Wansink has revealed that this bias can go further.

Their study showed that an organic label could influence much more than health views: perceptions of taste, calories and value can be significantly altered when a food is labeled "organic".

As part of the study, 115 people were recruited from a local shopping mall in Ithaca, New York, and asked to evaluate 3 pairs of products— 2 yogurts, 2 cookies and 2 potato chip portions. One item from each food pair was labeled "organic", while the other was labeled "regular".

Actually all of the product pairs were organic and identical. Participants were asked to rate the taste and caloric 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 these foods were all the same, the "organic" label greatly influenced people's perceptions. The cookies and yogurt were estimated to have significantly fewer calories when labeled "organic" and people were willing to pay up to 23.4 percent more for them.

The nutritional aspects of these foods were also greatly biased by the health halo effect. The "organic" cookies and yogurt were said to taste 'lower in fat' than the "regular" variety, and the "organic" cookies and chips were thought to be more nutritious.

The label even tricked people's taste buds: when perceived as "organic", chips seemed more appetizing and yogurt was judged to be more flavorful.

"Regular" cookies were reported to taste better--possibly because people often believe healthy foods are not tasty. All of these foods were exactly the same, but a simple organic label made all the difference.

This study found that people who regularly read nutrition labels, those who regularly buy organic food, and those who exhibit pro-environmental behaviors (such as recycling or hiking) are less susceptible to the organic 'health halo' effect.

(Agencies)

Latest News from Lifestyle News Desk