Food agency reacts to UK organic report
Organic food is healthier and safer for the consumer, claims a new report released this week. The study, undertaken by UK organic body the Soil Association and led by nutritonalist Shane Heaton, examined over 400 published papers comparing non-organic and organic foods in terms of food safety, nutritional content and health effects. Patrick Holden, Director of the Soil Association, said, "This report contradicts Sir John Krebs, Head of the Food Standards Agency, who said last year that there was not enough information available to be able to say that organic food is nutritionally different from non-organic food. On average we found that organic crops are not only higher in vitamin C and essential minerals, but also higher in phytonutrients - compounds which protect plants from pests and disease and are often beneficial in the treatment of cancer." The report's author maintained that there was strong evidence to suggest that the Food Standards Agency, DEFRA and the Department of Health should invest more funding and research into this area. "My analysis suggests that farming methods can make a significant difference to levels of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients," he stated. Europe is currently living through a maelstrom of food safety crises. The European Commission is brandishing the banner of food safety and quality. Can the UK government afford to ignore the findings of the Soil Association? Time will tell. Responding to the report this week the Food Standards Agency remained unconvinced by the results. "We are not persuaded to change our position on organic food, which is that there is not enough information to say that organic food is significantly different in terms of food safety and nutrition from conventional food," the FSA said in a statement. In agreement with the findings of the Soil Association report the Agency did stress that further research was required. "The Agency will be considering how consumer choice between organic and conventional food could be further informed by research." The FSA will set up a seminar later this year with all interested parties, including the Soil Association, to discuss this issue.