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Appetite. 2017 Jun 1;113:320-326. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2017.03.019. Epub 2017 Mar 14.

Importance of perceived naturalness for acceptance of food additives and cultured meat.

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ETH Zurich, Institute for Environmental Decisions (IED), Consumer Behavior, Universitätstrasse 22, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland. Electronic address:
ETH Zurich, Switzerland.


Four experiments examined some factors influencing the perceived naturalness of food products and their biasing effect on risk perception. The results of Experiment 1a showed that three food additives displaying their respective E-numbers (i.e., codes for food additives in the European Union and Switzerland) decreased perceived naturalness. Experiment 1b demonstrated that mentioning possible health effects decreased the perceived naturalness of a plant-based food additive. This experiment further showed that it would not matter for perceived naturalness whether the food was synthetic or nature-identical. Moreover, the results of Experiments 2 and 3 suggested that the same risk associated with meat consumption was much more acceptable for traditionally produced meat compared with in-vitro meat. Experiment 3 further indicated that the perceived naturalness of the meat (i.e., traditional or cultured meat) had a full mediation effect on participants' evaluation of the acceptability of the risk of colon cancer associated with the meat consumption. Even if the new production method (i.e., cultured meat) was more environmentally friendly and less harmful to animals, the perceived lack of naturalness might reduce the acceptability of the risk associated with such a product. The present study provides evidence that consumers rely on symbolic information when evaluating foods, which may lead to biased judgments and decisions.


Cultured meat; E-numbers; Food additives; In-vitro meat; Naturalness; Nature-identical; New food technologies; Risk perception; Synthetic

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