ADVERTISEMENT
  About the SA Blog Network













Food fears: A social issue?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


Email   PrintPrint



From high-fructose corn syrup to lean finely textured beef, health or safety concerns about specific food ingredients can capture the public’s attention and have the potential to significantly impact the food industry. While some food fears are backed by scientific evidence, a recent study by Cornell University researchers suggests food fears may also have a social ingredient.

The researchers surveyed a sample of 1008 U.S. mothers about a specific ingredient, high-fructose corn syrup, and found that those who avoided the ingredient also were more likely to want their friends to know their opinions about food.

One reason people avoid ingredients may be as a way to create the image that they are a healthy eater, according to Aner Tal, one of the study’s authors who is a post-doctoral research associate in Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab.

Mothers who said they avoided high-fructose corn syrup also scored higher on a scale of social desirability, which measures a person’s tendency to say things they think will gain others’ approval.

But the high-fructose corn syrup avoiders may not always be willing to put their money where their mouth is. The study also found that women who said they avoided high-fructose corn syrup were not willing to pay more for a food item that contained table sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup compared to those participants who did not avoid the ingredient.

Since some food fears are unfounded, the researchers also took a look at what counteracts unnecessary food fears. Rather than a traditional approach of providing consumers with the science behind a food ingredient and its safety, the findings suggest telling consumers about the history of an ingredient and its use in other products can be helpful.

“If you know more background about something, where it comes from, where it’s used, then that makes it seem more familiar,” Tal said.

So while a need for social approval may have the potential to encourage food fears, the food industry may also have a way to fight against those fears they find unjustified.

Julianne Wyrick About the Author: Julianne Wyrick has a bachelor’s in biochemistry and is currently a master’s student in the health and medical journalism program at the University of Georgia, where she also writes about science for the Office of Research Communications. Find her on the web at juliannewyrick.com. Follow on Twitter @juliannewyrick.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.






Add Comment

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Scientific American Holiday Sale

Black Friday/Cyber Monday Blow-Out Sale

Enter code:
HOLIDAY 2014
at checkout

Get 20% off now! >

X

Email this Article

X