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Research topples organic

An independent review commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) shows that there are no important differences in the nutrition content, nor any additional health benefits, of organic food when compared with conventionally produced food. The focus of the review was the nutritional content of foodstuffs.

Gill Fine, FSA Director of Consumer Choice and Dietary Health, said: ‘Ensuring people have accurate information is absolutely essential in allowing us all to make informed choices about the food we eat. This study does not mean that people should not eat organic food. What it shows is that there is little, if any, nutritional difference between organic and conventionally produced food and that there is no evidence of additional health benefits from eating organic food.

'The Agency supports consumer choice and is neither pro nor anti organic food. We recognise that there are many reasons why people choose to eat organic, such as animal welfare or environmental concerns. The Agency will continue to give consumers accurate information about their food based on the best available scientific evidence.'

The study, which took the form of a ‘systematic review of literature', was carried out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). LSHTM's team of researchers, led by Alan Dangour, reviewed all papers published over the past 50 years that related to the nutrient content and health differences between organic and conventional food. This systematic review is the most comprehensive study in this area that has been carried out to date.

The FSA commissioned this research as part of its commitment to giving consumers accurate information about their food, based on the most up-to-date science.

The research was split into two separate parts, one of which looked at differences in nutrient levels and their significance, while the other looked at the health benefits of eating organic food.

Dr Dangour, of the LSHTM's Nutrition and Public Health Intervention Research Unit said: ‘A small number of differences in nutrient content were found to exist between organically and conventionally produced crops and livestock, but these are unlikely to be of any public health relevance. Our review indicates that there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority.'

Guild of Fine Food chair, Bob Farrand, is not the least bit surprised that organic food is no better for us than non organic. "We've long viewed organic food as a metropolitan, middle class fad," he said. "It was born and fostered more out of fears of what might be in our food than any clear understanding of how good food and drink is produced.

"Some organic food is superb, some is not worth its premium price. If consumers were to consider where and how something was made and the provenance of the ingredients used, they would worry less about organics and more about food quality.

"Too often, organic food has travelled too far, for too long and often at ridiculously low temperatures. Better to buy local, fresh and properly produced - that way, small food and farming businesses have the wherewithal to survive, care for the environment and their animals, and we get to eat something that tastes great."

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