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Overestimating the Organic Label

Shawn Allee

May 10, 2010

Researchers have known for a while that food labels, such as "low in fat," can mislead dieters into thinking they're eating healthy.

Shawn Allee reports the "organic" label could lead dieters astray, too.

Cornell University ran an experiment to look at how people think about food made with organic ingredients.

One researcher was Jenny Lee.

Lee gave people cookies - some were labeled organic, some not.

Then people guessed the calorie count.

"We found that those who ate cookies with the organic label rated those cookies to be lower in calories than those who ate cookies without the organic label."

Actually, they were exactly the same cookies: organic Oreos.

The "organic" label means that food's grown without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, but Lee says some shoppers think it means "healthy" in other ways.

"You have to be a little suspicious about what the label's actually claiming and not to draw any other inferences."

Lee says people need to think about what they expect from food labeled "organic," since organic products are becoming common in mainstream grocery stores.

For The Environment Report, I'm Shawn Allee.

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