Is organic food worth the premium price tag?

3 April 2013

The latest health research shows shoppers are willing to shell out more cash for foods labelled as ‘organic’ because they associate the label with health benefits.

Research conducted at Cornell University shows shoppers believe organic foods are better for them, tastier, and lower in calories - a widespread perception that has been dubbed the ‘health halo effect’. This belief is costing people money, roughly 23 per cent more, in fact.

Cornell University’s study proves there is a bias associated with organic foods. Over 100 people took part in the investigation, where participants were asked to evaluate three pairs of products, including yoghurts, cookies and crisps. In each pairing, one item was labelled ‘organic’ and the other labelled as ‘regular’, but both were actually organic and identical. Participants consistently rated ‘organic’ products higher than ‘regular’, suggesting the ‘organic’ items tasted lower in fat and altogether seemed more nutritious.

The only exception was the cookies. Participants reported ‘regular’ as the tastier option, perhaps because higher fat content is usually associated with rich tasting foods.

Researchers also found the ‘health halo effect’ does not influence decisions of shoppers who closely examine nutrition labels, or those who consistently buy organic food.

Although organic food is 30 per cent less likely to contain pesticides, it has not been proven have any health benefits.

Researcher Mitsuru Shimizu of Cornell University said consumers “need to be careful - they should pay more attention to the nutrition label of organic foods. Organic foods are not necessarily as good and worthy as they think."

Posted by Philip Briggs

Health News is provided by Adfero in collaboration with Spire Healthcare. Please note that all copy above is ©Adfero Ltd. and does not reflect views or opinions of Spire Healthcare unless explicitly stated. Additional comments on the page from individual Spire consultants do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of other consultants or Spire Healthcare.

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