Organic Label's Consequences

May 6/NewsRx Health & Science -- Could organic labels lead consumers to overeat? These labels appear to make people think their organic snack has a lot fewer calories than it really does, according to findings presented at an Experimental Biology conference in Anaheim, Calif. They showed that people who ate organic cookies labeled as "organic" believed that their snack contained 40% fewer calories than the same cookies that had no label, according to Jenny Wan-Chen Lee, a graduate student with the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

"An organic label gives a food a 'health halo,'" said coauthor, Brian Wansink, Cornell professor and author of the book Marketing Nutrition. "It's the same basic reason people tend to overeat any snack food that's labeled as healthy or low fat. They underestimate the calories and over-reward themselves by eating more."

The study even identified two personality types most likely to make these low estimates: people who claim to "usually buy organic foods," and those who typically read labels for nutritional information.

From the May 10, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition