Saturday, September 8, 2012


A critical question one may ask regarding organic foods is why people are paying a premium price and buy them? Typically the answer could be that they are safer and more nutritious than commercially produced produced products using a variety of chemical substances including antibiotics. However very few people really believe that organic foods can be more nutritious, their faith on them being anchored on safety and there is a strong reason for that. Organic food industry is one of the most rigidly regulated sectors with well laid guidelines and strict procedures to avoid chemical contamination of any sort, be it from fertilizers, water, soil, crop protecting chemicals or any other source and strong certification procedure by expert agencies make them more attractive to consumers, giving the much needed confidence. in a recent study, it was brought out that organic foods are not more nutritious (which was already known) and less likely to contain man made chemical substances (also known earlier) and the findings as contained in the following report may not be that exciting.  

"17 studies in humans and 223 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in foods met inclusion criteria. Only 3 of the human studies examined clinical outcomes, finding no significant differences between populations by food type for allergic outcomes (eczema, wheeze, atopic sensitization) or symptomatic Campylobacter infection. Two studies reported significantly lower urinary pesticide levels among children consuming organic versus conventional diets, but studies of biomarker and nutrient levels in serum, urine, breast milk, and semen in adults did not identify clinically meaningful differences. All estimates of differences in nutrient and contaminant levels in foods were highly heterogeneous except for the estimate for phosphorus; phosphorus levels were significantly higher than in conventional produce, although this difference is not clinically significant. The risk for contamination with detectable pesticide residues was lower among organic than conventional produce (risk difference, 30% [CI, -37% to -23%]), but differences in risk for exceeding maximum allowed limits were small. Escherichia coli contamination risk did not differ between organic and conventional produce. Bacterial contamination of retail chicken and pork was common but unrelated to farming method. However, the risk for isolating bacteria resistant to 3 or more antibiotics was higher in conventional than in organic chicken and pork (risk difference, 33% [CI, 21% to 45%])".

It is true that organic food industry hardly commands 2-3% of global food market and probably clocking a reasonable annual growth, slightly higher than the normal food industry. But the faith in the safety of organic foods cannot be shaken easily as common sense tells the consumer that they are definitely superior to present day main stream food industry because chemical inputs during growing or processing are scrupulously avoided. Talking about nutrition the conventionally marketed foods many be contain more nutrients as most of them are fortified with a variety of substances like vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, essential amino acids and essential fatty acids. How far these external addition are utilized by the body is another matter, fit for a debate! 


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