Survey shows confusion between organic food and low-fat

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Organic food

 A UK consumer study has uncovered serious misunderstandings about what ‘organic’ food is, with one in four people admitting confusion and one in five believing organic food is lower in fat.

Organic refers to the production system by which it is grown or raised, where synthetic inputs are restricted or disallowed.

But the results of an online survey of 1662 British people commissioned by website, only 16 per cent said they understood the term to mean ‘free from synthetic chemicals.

Fourteen per cent said they thought it means ‘healthy’ and 12 per cent answered ‘expensive’.

Some 15 per cent of people said they by organic food as a strategy for losing weight.

Mark Pearson, managing director of the website, laid responsibility for correcting the misconceptions on supermarkets.

“Perhaps supermarkets need to ensure that people are getting the right message when it comes to food, clearly stating on packaging what exactly ‘organic’ means in terms of the product it represents,”​ he said.

“Whilst organic can be healthier from a chemical point of view, this doesn’t equate to weight loss. The same can be said for ‘low sugar’ foods too; as whilst products may be able to cut down their sugar content, this doesn’t automatically mean that fat and calories follow suit!”

Promotional boon

The UK organic food sector is already taking steps to boost consumer awareness and understanding of organics, in a bid to reverse falling growth rates. It has recently secured almost £1m in funding from the EU towards a new campaign, matching the same amount of money raise by the industry itself.

A new logo for use on all organic foods across the European Union has recently been launched, and must be used on all new organic food products – although national logos, which may already have a good level of awareness, can be used as well. Existing organic products have a two year window to start using the new logo.

US also confused

The findings from the UK survey mirror similar results from the US.

A new study published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making found that organic claims on food packaging could lead consumers to overeat or even exercise less

Both the terms ‘organic’ and ‘low-calorie’ were seen to be strongly associated with the concept of ‘healthy’ in contemporary America, suggesting that “these associations might lead consumers to assume that foods produced organically contain fewer calories than their conventional counterparts, despite the fact that the ‘organic’ designation entails no such claim.”

In addition, the study found that the influence of the organic claim on calorie judgments was most pronounced among participants for whom organic production was a particularly valued attribute.

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