Food Labels as 'Health Halos'

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Research presented at experimental biology conference this week in Anaheim, Calif., showed that people who ate cookies labeled as organic believed that their snack contained 40% fewer calories than the same cookies that had no label.

The study s coauthor, Cornell professor Brian Wansink, explains, An organic label gives a food a health halo. 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.

Dr. Whelan recognizes this phenomenon: People think of organic food as being just generally healthier, so they eat more of it. The trans-fat ban was a similar boon to the food industry. People who see food labeled as trans-fat free are quite convinced that they were buying healthier, lower-calorie products, when indeed this is most definitely not the case.