Viewpoint: Organic, non-GMO marketing claims drive poor people away from healthier food choices

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Many food organizations, celebrity chefs, food bloggers, and talk show hosts like to push the idea that eating right means eating expensive. According to these rules, shopping at posh grocery stores, with wine bars, sushi counters, and loads of expensive, organic, non-GMO, free trade, humanely caught, free-range food is the way to go if you want to be truly healthy.

Yet, this message goes beyond mere snobbery. Some even suggest consumers are doing great harm to themselves by eating less expensive, non-organic food and promote the idea that organic food is superior because it is free of pesticides (not true), that it’s healthier (not true), and that it’s better for the environment (again, not true).

This consumer guilt-tripping and total indifference to struggling families sums up the elitist food philosophy. Aspirational food shopping is as normal as aspirational shoe shopping these days, and it has taken hold among even the poorest consumers.

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This misinformation comes at a high cost — to consumer health. A study by the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Center for Nutrition Research showed fear-based food marketing (for example, telling people that canned food is bad or that they should only buy organic food and milk) is creating so much anxiety about affordable food that poor consumers are actually choosing to pass on these healthier items.

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