News

No health benefits from organic food, claims study

July 14, 2009

There are no important advantages in terms of health and nutritional benefits gained from eating organic food when compared to food produced using conventional techniques, says the UK’s Food Standards Authority (FSA), with the recent publication of a scientific study.

The researchers said that 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. The report further concludes that because of the limited and highly variable data available there is currently no evidence of a health benefit from consuming organic compared to conventionally produced foodstuffs.

According to the FSA, a systematic review of literature was conducted of all the papers published over the past 50 years that related to the nutritional and health differences between organic and conventional food. Noticeably, the study does not include any data on pesticides, but the FSA explains this is because pesticides are already assessed and their levels are monitored, and that the use alone of pesticides in either organic or conventional food production does not pose an unacceptable risk to human health.

A recent monitoring report found traces of pesticides in organic food products for the first time, challenging public perceptions that organic products are free of synthetic plant protection products (2).

However, the report came under strong criticism from The Organic Center (TOC), an American-based Non-Governmental Organization, which claimed the report downplayed positive findings in favor of organic food. According to the TOC team, the FSA study omitted a measure of total antioxidant capacity which has great importance in promoting human health. In another contrasting opinion, the International Centre for Research in Organic Food Systems, claims an organic diet may bring health benefits, based on the preliminary findings of a study on rats which suggests that organic food may alter the immune status, sleep/activity pattern, accumulation of adipose tissue, liver function and vitamin E status, while traditional measures of nutrient value were unaffected by the production method of food.

References

  1. U.K. Food Standards Agency: Organic Review Report (2009).
  2. European Food Safety Authority: Report on pesticide residues in food (2009).