NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Poll Shows U.S.D.A. Organic Food Labels Are Misleading

June 1, 2000

A new poll finds the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) proposed rules for labeling organic food products will seriously mislead consumers into thinking the products are safer, better in quality or more nutritious, says the National Center For Public Policy Research.

Of course, food is by nature organic, as are pesticides called organophosphates. But the USDA regulations do not aim to provide scientific standards, but rather marketing and labeling rules for so-called "natural" products grown and processed without the benefit of modern science.

That's because consumers will pay a premium of up to 200 percent for organic food products -- and currently spent $6 billion a year on them.

Today, no national standards exist, but the survey conducted by International Communications Research of Media, PA found two-thirds of the public would be misled by the proposed USDA seal on several key issues:

  • 68 percent said they would interpret a product labeled "USDA Certified Organic" to be safer to eat than non-organic foods.
  • 67 percent believed "USDA Certified Organic" to be better than non-organic foods.
  • And 62 percent believe "USDA Certified Organic" to be healthier for consumers than non-organic foods.

In fact, some studies have found organic foods are more likely to contain E. coli and other dangerous organisms, since organic foods may be fertilized with manure and are not sprayed with chemical pesticides or irradiated.

In other findings, the national consumer poll found seven out of ten (69 percent) said the USDA label would imply these products are better for the environment and four out of ten (43 percent) believe these would be more nutritious. In fact, the label provided no information on either of these qualities.

Source: News Release, "National Poll: U.S.D.A. Organic Food Labels Are Misleading," May 24, 2000, National Center For Public Policy Research, 777 N. Capitol Street, N.E., No. 803, Washington, DC 20002, (202) 371-1400.


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