Researchers have found that just the addition of the word "organic" on a candy bar or "antioxidants" on a soda can can cause consumers to believe it's a healthier product than its counterparts.
"Food marketers are taking advantage of them by misleading those consumers with deceptive labeling," Temple Northup, assistant professor in communications at the University of Houston, told the Los Angeles Times. Northup is the author of a study that came out Tuesday in the journal Food Studies that looked at the overconsumption of unhealthy foods as a major factor in causing obesity.
Northup had 318 undergrads take a survey on food packages and labels, showing them two versions of a product: the real one and one with words like "whole grain" and "organic" removed. Participants looked at tortilla chips with and without "all natural" and Cherry 7-Up with and without "antioxidants" — every single person thought the product with the words were much healthier than the product without the words.
Northup would like to see improvements on labels so people can better understand what they're ingesting. "It is perhaps time that the food industry take responsibility for how they market their foods and acknowledge the role they play in keeping consumers in the United States misinformed about what is healthy to eat," he wrote.