In a study published in Nutrition Today, researchers investigated opinions of low-income individuals about organic versus conventional fruits and vegetables and found that their choices are impacted by the amount of messaging they are receiving, such as EWG's Dirty Dozen. These people felt that organic was better, but because of the cost, were more willing to forgo fruits and vegetables because of cost even though there were lower cost conventionally grown produce.
This is a topic that has been addressed from a health standpoint, where organic was found to be no more nutritious than conventional, and more importantly from a safety standpoint, whether biological contaminates or those that can lead to cancer. USDA testing has continually shown that pesticide levels in produce are within established limits.
The issue is that many are missing the health benefits of having produce in their diet for the sake of avoiding some infinitesimal risk.
Low-Income Shoppers and Fruit and Vegetables: What Do They Think?
Huang, Yancui MS; Edirisinghe, Indika PhD; Burton-Freeman, Britt M. PhD, MS
We surveyed 510 low-income shoppers to learn about their attitudes about organic and conventional fruits and vegetables (FV) and what would happen if we provided them with information about organic and conventional growing practices from a variety of sources. In general, participants preferred organic FV; however, cost was a significant barrier to purchase them. Informational statements about organic and conventional FV did not increase participants' likelihood to purchase more FV. In contrast, messages naming specific FV with pesticides shifted participants toward “less likely” to purchase any type of FV regardless whether organically or conventionally grown. The results provide insight about how low-income people view FV and how communications may influence their purchase intention.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
This study revealed the complexity of influences on FV purchasing among low-income individuals. The research highlights the need to better understand the interaction between (low) income, including small incremental changes in income level, organic and nonorganic FV messaging and education, and FV intake. It is clear that low-income shoppers are hearing messages about pesticide residues and FV. It is also clear that the content and how the information is presented could negatively impact overall FV purchasing and intake in low-income populations. Hearing that most shoppers in this survey trust dietitians/nutritionist, scientists, and physicians for health and safety information about fresh FV presents an important opportunity for these professionals working in low-income populations to educate shoppers about organically and conventionally grown produce. Additionally, these professionals have the opportunity to teach shoppers about best practices in handling all FV to minimize their confusion and safety concerns and enjoy FV more often. Acknowledging that media also play a significant role in communications suggests that continued professional interactions with media to educate and help them translate science about FV growing practices, real versus perceived safety issues, and benefits of FV will be of critical importance to ensure consumers are getting accurate and actionable information relevant at all income levels. Overall, the present research underscores the need for further research to better understand perceptions of FV issues, particularly within low-income groups where the barriers to intake are greater and more complex, and, moreover, to use this research to inform and develop effective communication strategies consistent with promoting and achieving public health FV goals.