Organic perceived as costly and lacking in flavour

By Laura Crowley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Organic food, Nutrition, Ireland

High prices mean over half those surveyed in Ireland have never
purchased organic food and confusions abound on its taste and
benefits.

The study Food Safety in theRepublicofIreland: Attitudes among Industry, Consumers and Young People (2007)​ gathered public opinion on organic food. Following the release of the research, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland's (FSAI) Consultative Council hosted a meeting to discuss regulating unsubstantiated health claims and the continuing growth of the organic market. Survey ​ It found that 80 per cent of those surveyed understood the benefits of organic food to be free from pesticides and chemicals, leaving a fifth of people unaware of the meaning of the term 'organic'. Over half of recipients said they had never purchased any organic food, mainly as a result of its higher cost, with 54 per cent saying it was too expensive. The survey also found that 32 per cent felt organic produce is a healthier option, while only 15 per cent believed it is 'full of flavour and taste. Health claims ​The possible benefits of organic food over conventional produce have been researched and debated, with inconclusive results as yet. At the FSAI meeting, Mary Flynn, chief specialist for Public Health Nutrition, said: "There is a widespread belief among advocates of organic food that ecological, low input production systems result in foods of higher nutritional quality. However, although the nutrition and health aspects of organic food have been explored in many studies, there is little evidence that organic foods confer health benefits to humans." ​She therefore said that "well designed, strictly controlled"​ studies must be carried out to provide greater insight on the subject. She also outlined the new European Regulations, which aim to protect the consumer against misleading or exaggerated health claims. Although this regulation will not take full effect till 2021, it requires all food producers to substantiate their claims with valid scientific evidence. Con O'Rourke, plant scientist, said: "While it is often claimed that organic food is more nutritious and tastes better, to date, rigorous scientific evaluation has failed to show significant and consistent differences. Organic claims are usually based on single observations, without controls for comparison." ​However, he cited evidence, albeit limited, from a major EU-funded programme in the UK which indicates that organic crops may have a higher anti-oxidant content. The world organic market has been growing by 20 per cent a year since the early 1990s. Ireland is no exception, according to FSAI, and future projections for further annual growth ranges between 10 to 50 per cent. Siobhan Morris, an organic food consultant, said the organic market is currently worth €66m, up from €38m in 2003, and is estimated to grow to approximately €400m over the next five years. She cited mounting evidence supporting the benefits of organic milk, which has been found to be naturally higher in Omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin A and other antioxidants. She said: "It's not just about flavour and taste; you have to look at the broad range of benefits that organic farming can deliver."

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