Organic food has no extra health benefits over normal food, according to an independent study commissioned by the Food Standards Agency.

Researchers who looked at evidence on nutrition and health benefits over the past 50 years found there was little difference in nutritional value of organic produce.

The small nutritional differences which did occur were not large enough to be of any public health relevance, the report said.

The FSA said the findings would help consumers make an informed choice about food but did not mean people should not eat organic food.

The Soil Association said it was disappointed with the report’s conclusions.

Peter Melchett, the association’s policy director, said the review rejected almost all the existing studies comparing nutritional differences of organic and non-organic food.

“Although the researchers say that the differences between organic and non-organic food are not ‘important’, due to the relatively few studies, they report in their analysis that there are higher levels of beneficial nutrients in organic compared to non-organic foods.

“Without large-scale, longitudinal research it is difficult to come to far-reaching clear conclusions on this, which was acknowledged by the authors of the FSA review.

“Also, there is not sufficient research on the long-term effects of pesticides on human health.”

Consumers who bought organic produce were supporting a system that had the highest welfare standards for animals, increased wildlife on farms and banned pesticides and routine antibiotics, he added.

* For a Farmers Weekly opinion on the organic market, see Phil Clarke’s Business Blog

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