Are You Fooled By The Health Halo Effect Of Organic Labels?

The word organic is defined as ‘Of, relating to or derived from living organisms’. In terms of food it refers to produce which was grown with fertiliser or pesticides which are strictly of animal or vegetable origin or to animals which were raised without drugs, hormones or synthetic chemicals.

To the majority of people, organic labels signify healthful food and it is this notion which appears to warp our perceptions of the true nutrient value of organic foods.

A study conducted by Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab found that an organic label can influence much more than health views. It also significantly alters our perception of taste, calories and financial value of food products which are labelled as organic.

These findings are a result of a large study in which subjects were faced with direct comparison foods – ie two identical yoghurts, one of which was labelled ‘regular’ and the other as ‘organic’. Alhough the foods compared were exactly the same apart from the labels, subjects perceived the food labelled ‘organic’ to contain less calories, taste ‘more healthy’ and they were even willing to pay as much as 23.4% more for the product which was thought to be ‘organic’.

Although many of us appear to succumb to the health halo effects of food packaging, the least susceptible group of people are those who regularly read nutrition labels! Staying clued up on nutrition will help you make informed decisions and avoid being fooled by packaging.


Wan-Chen Jenny Lee, Mitsuri Shimizu, Kevin M Kniffin, Brian Wansink, You Taste What You See: Do Organic Labels Bias Taste Perceptions? Food Quality and Preference, 2013, 29(1):33.

About the Author

Job Role Sports Nutritionist and Social Media Coordinator Qualifications Bsc Sport and Exercise Science Steph has a competitive athletic background which spans 19 years. As a child she performed with the English Youth Ballet and had performed on the West End stage by the age of 10. Her enthusiasm for sport and fitness continued to grow as she did, encouraging her to learn more about nutrition and training. She began using her knowledge and personal experience to help others when she began coaching at the age of 16. From here, she went on to study Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Essex during which time she also received the Most Promising Newcomer Award from her University to mark her outstanding contribution to sport. During her first year of study she was introduced to partner stunt acrobatics and artistic gymnastics. After one year of dedicating herself to a lifestyle revolving around her sport, she was training with the best team in the UK who are currently ranked fifth in the world. Steph has worked in both the private and public sector coaching children and adults from grassroot to elite level as well as providing them with cutting edge advice on how to reach their goals. Steph has received awards for her choreography and has competed nationally and internationally meaning that she can back up her scientific knowledge with a wealth of experience. As our resident Sports Nutritionist, Steph is here to provide the most current and evidence based fitness, health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals.
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