The British Food Standards Agency, set up in 2000 by the British government in order to protect the public’s health and consumer interests regarding food products, has published an extensive and independent review of the literature comparing conventional and ‘organic’ food. Their conclusion?
An independent review commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) shows that there are no important differences in the nutrition content, or 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 review was done in two parts: The first report dealt with differences in the content of nutrients and other substances between ‘organic’ and conventional produce. When analyzing all studies regardless of quality, no evidence of a difference in content was detected between organically and conventionally produced crops for vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, total soluble solids, titratable acidity, copper, iron, nitrates, manganese, ash, specific proteins, sodium, plant non-digestible carbohydrates, β-carotene and sulphur. Significant differences in content between organically and conventionally produced crops were found in some minerals (nitrogen higher in conventional crops; magnesium and zinc higher in organic crops), phytochemicals (phenolic compounds and flavonoids higher in organic crops) and sugars (higher in organic crops). When the analysis was restricted to satisfactory quality studies, statistically significant differences in content between organically and conventionally produced crops were found only in nitrogen content (higher in conventional crops), phosphorus (higher in organic crops) and titratable acidity (higher in organic crops). The researchers concluded that both types of produce contained more than enough nutrients for human health, reminding us that consuming more vitamins is not necessarily better for one’s health. They suspected that any differences in nutrient content had to do with the soil nutrient content, the growing/feeding conditions and the season.
The second report discussed the rather paltry evidence regarding health outcomes resulting from the consumption of either conventional or ‘organic’ food. Given the paucity of information, the reviewers concluded that the 11 articles they found on the subject did not demonstrate any health benefits related to the consumption of ‘organic’ foodstuffs.
In the meantime, I know what I’ll be buying: