Organic produce, dairy, and meats often cost twice as much as conventionally grown products. They are expensive and those of us buying organic should wonder: are they more nutritious, safer, or healthier?
A large study out of Stanford released September 4th set out to address this question.
First, what is organic?
- Grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers
- No routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones
- Livestock are fed organically produced feed (free of pesticides and animal byproducts)
- Livestock are provided access to the outdoors, sunlight, fresh air and freedom of movement.
- Organic foods are processed without irradiation or chemical food additives.
Now that we know the rules organic produce, dairy, and meats must follow, here are the big questions:
1. Is organic more nutritional? Nutrients in organic vs. conventional produce were compared and of the nutrients evaluated only phosphorus was higher in organic foods. The authors looked at Vitamin C, iron, protein, fiber, calcium, among many others, and there were no consistent differences between organic and conventional produce and dairy.
2. What about pesticides? There is a difference here, and that is important. Conventional produce had a 30% increased risk of pesticide contamination than organic produce.
3. What about contamination with bacteria? Both conventional and organic meats were commonly contaminated with Salmonella and Campylobacter (yuck.) Here is another important finding: organic produce had a higher risk of contamination with E. coli.
4. What about antibiotic resistant bacteria? Conventional chicken and pork had a higher risk of contamination with antibiotic resistant bacteria than organic. Remember this is important because we worry these resistant bacteria will transfer to humans and cause urinary tract infections, wound infections, etc.
There are no long-term studies that suggest outcome of populations are better with organic foods. So I have to ask: are organic foods worth the cost?
- Dr. O
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