Consumers May Overestimate Healthiness, Value Of Organic Foods

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Consumers may overestimate healthiness, value of organic foodsA graduate student at Cornell University's Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management sought to find out how consumers are swayed by the 'organic' label, and her results revealed significant bias.

Jenny Wan-chen Lee tested her hypothesis on 144 participants. She asked them to test identical brands of organic potato chips, yogurt and cookies, labeling half of them as non-organic.

Participants rated the foods on taste and perceived calorie content, then reported how much they would be willing to pay for the organic varieties.

Her results overwhelmingly supported her theory on the "halo effect" of foods with organic labels. The subjects reported that the organic-labeled foods tasted better, had lower calories and were worth a higher price tag than the regular products.

Lee said that since she only tested a few products, additional studies may be necessary to draw any hard and fast conclusions.

While the United States Department of Agriculture's position is that no conclusive trials have proven that organic foods have superior nutritional benefits over conventionally-grown food, many experts disagree. Some studies suggest that organic fruits and vegetables do indeed have a more impressive nutritional profile compared to conventionally grown produce.

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