Healthy Organic Halo Effect

Organic foods aren't always healthier or lower in calories

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Health conscious consumers will often assume that anything organic is a healthier and lower calorie food option than a regularly labeled food option. As the adage reminds us: You can't judge a book by its cover. The same may be true for food packaging.

Jenny Wan-chen Lee, a graduate student in Cornell University's Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management decided to see if "the halo effect" of organic products influences people's perception of the food value and calorie count of the organic products.

"Read food labels for their calorie and nutritional information."

Ms. Lee wanted to test her theory that the "Halo Effect" would apply to organic food labels.  For the study, Ms. Lee sneakily filled the products labelled organic or natural with the same product and surveyed the passersby on taste, quality and health of the two identical but differently labeled products.

In Depth

  • She asked 144 study participants, who were mall passersby,  what they thought about different food products that were labeled regular or organic.
  •  She asked them to rate the product's taste from one to nine, with nine being the best. 
  • The mall folk  preferred all the organically-labeled food. The participants also thought the organic label indicated lower calories and could command a higher price tag.
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 11, 2011
Last Updated:
April 18, 2011