Tuesday, 15 December 2009

organic food...is it really any different

Many of you will probably have read in the papers recently about a new report published by the FSA a few weeks ago saying that organic food is no better for you than conventionally grown crops.

An interesting email popped up in my inbox today which talks about this report and these claims in a little more detail than was discussed in the press. What was interesting was that the report found that difference between the following nutrients, when comparing organic to non-organic food, to be:

- Protein 12.7%
- Beta-carotene 53.6%
- Flavonoids 38.4%
- Copper 8.3%
- Magnesium 7.1%
- Phosphorous 6%
- Potassium 2.5%
- Sodium 8.7%
- Sulphur 10.5%
- Zinc 11.3%
- Phenolic compounds 13.2%

The researchers also found higher levels of beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acids in organic meat and dairy products (between 2.1% - 27.8% higher) compared to non-organic meat and dairy.

However despite these differences the report concluded that the differences were not 'statistically significant' hence the headlines.

In this report the FSA also failed to include the results of a major European Union-funded study involving 31 research and university institutes and the publication, so far, of more than 100 scientific papers, at a cost of 18million Euros, which ended in April this year.

The European Union research programme concluded that:

- 'Levels of a range of nutritionally desirable compounds (e.g. antioxidants, vitamins, glycosinolates) were shown to be higher in organic crops'
- 'Levels of nutritionally undesirable compounds (e.g. mycotoxins, glycoalkaloids, Cadmium and Nickel) were shown to be lower in organic crops'.

In addition, levels of nutritionally important fatty acids, such as CLA and omega 3 were between 10 - 60% higher in organic milk and dairy products, and levels of Vitamin C were up to 90% higher in leafy vegetables and fruits.

Meanwhile a French Government Food Agency report showed that there were significant differences between the nutritional content of organic and non-organic food. The review, published by the French food agency AFSSA found that between 94 and 100 per cent of organic food did not contain any pesticide residues and that organic vegetables contain 50 per cent fewer nitrate compounds.

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