Cornell University study examines organic health halo effect

Published on April 2, 2013 at 5:43 AM · No Comments

Organic cookies are still cookies!

The word "organic" can mean many things to consumers. Even so, the power of an organic label can be very strong: studies have shown that this simple label can lead us to think that a food is healthier, through what is known as the 'health halo effect'. But can this bias go further? A study by Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab researchers Lee, Shimizu, Kniffin and Wansink set out to answer this question. Their study shows that an organic label can influence much more than health views: perceptions of taste, calories and value can be significantly altered when a food is labeled "organic". Certain people also appear to be more susceptible to this 'health halo' effect than others-are you?

115 people were recruited from a local shopping mall in Ithaca, New York to participate in this study. Participants were 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". The trick to this study was: 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.

What is organic food?

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