Halo effect of organic labels

New research suggests an "organic" label on foods is enough to make people believe the food items are healthier and tastier, reports HealthDay News.

Jenny Wan-chen Lee, a graduate student in Cornell University's Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, asked 144 volunteers to compare (what they believed) were conventionally and organically produced chocolate sandwich cookies, plain yogurt and potato chips. Labeled as either regular or organic, all were actually organic.


Lee conducted the study to test the theory that people are influenced by what is described as "the halo effect," according to the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.Would the "health halo" -- the perception that an item that is labeled "organic" is nutritious -- lead people to believe that the "organic" foods tasted better?Using a scale of 1 to 9 to rate each of the products on 10 attributes, such as overall taste and perception of fat content, participants were also asked to estimate the number of calories in each food item and how much they would pay for each product.

 Findings were that participants preferred almost all of the taste characteristics of the foods labeled as "organic," even though they were identical to those labeled as "regular."


Food items with "organic" labels were also perceived as being lower in fat, higher in fiber, significantly lower in calories and worth more money, according to Lee. It's notable that chips and cookies labeled "organic" were judged to be more nutritious than those believed to be non-organic.These are, of course, preliminary studies since they have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, but fascinating none-the-less.