Friday, July 31, 2009

Organic food 'no better for health than factory-farmed food' says U.K. government report

Which has outraged the faddists. How nasty of science to debunk superstition!

Organic food is no healthier than other produce, according to the Government’s food watchdog. The largest ever review into the science behind organic food found that it contained no more nutritional value than factory-farmed meat or fruit and vegetables grown using chemical fertilisers. The findings challenge popular assumptions about the organic industry, worth £2 billion in the UK. Consumer groups said that shoppers may now think twice before buying organic.

The report, commissioned by the Food Standards Agency, was carried out by experts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who studied data collected over 50 years.

Organic groups were incensed by the findings. The Soil Association accused the FSA of ignoring up-to-date evidence and pre-empting EU research for political reasons. Lord Melchett, its policy director, said that he had urged the FSA to delay its report. “They have jumped the gun,” he said.

The FSA researchers were led by by a public health nutritionist, Dr Alan Dangour. They found that there was no significant benefit from drinking milk or eating meat, vegetables, fruit, poultry and eggs from organic sources, as opposed to the products of conventional farm systems.

Pro-organic groups criticised the findings of the year-long review, which cost £120,000. They said that the conclusions, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, failed to take into account the impact of pesticides and herbicides. Organic farming bans artificial chemical fertilisers and has stricter animal welfare rules than conventional farming.

Dr Dangour said that, as a nutritionist, he was not qualified to look at pesticides. “There is a possibility that organic food has less pesticide residues, but this was not part of the review,” he said. “Potentially this may be an area for further research.” He added: “A small number of differences in nutrient content were found to exist between organically and conventionally produced crops and livestock, but these are unlikely to be of any public health relevance. “Our review indicates that there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically over conventionally produced crops and livestock on the basis of nutritional supremacy.”

Among the differences identified by the study was a higher phosphorous content in organic food. Dr Dangour said: “Phosphorus is an important mineral and is available in everything we eat. It is important for public health but the difference in the content between organic and conventional foods was not statistically relevant in terms of health.” He added: “Acidity is also higher in organic produce but acidity is about taste and sensory perception and makes no difference at all for health.”

Nitrogen levels were found to be higher in conventional produce, but this was not surprising given the use of nitrogen as a fertiliser in commercial agriculture. But the levels posed no better or worse impacts on human health, the research said.

A study of 52,000 papers was made, but only 162 scientific papers published between January 1958 and February last year were deemed relevant, of which just 55 met the strict quality criteria for the study, Dr Dangour said.

Twenty-three nutrients were analysed. In 20 categories there were no significant differences between production methods and the nutrient content. The differences detected were most likely to have been due to differences in fertiliser use and ripeness at harvest, and were unlikely to provide any health benefits.

The Soil Association challenged the conclusions that some nutritional differences between organic and conventional food were not important. It said it was particularly concerned that the researchers dismissed higher levels of beneficial nutrients in organic food — such as 53.6 higher levels of beta-carotene and 38.4 per cent more flavonoids in organic foods — according to the mean percentage difference of samples analysed. Dr Dangour was adamant that these were not relevant because of the level of standard error in the research — which was 37 per cent for beta-carotene and 10.6 per cent for flavonoids.

The authors said in their conclusion: “No evidence of a difference in content of nutrients and other substances between organically and conventionally produced crops and livestock products was detected for the majority of nutrient assessed in this review, suggesting that organically and conventionally produced crops and livestock products are broadly comparable in their nutrient content.”

Gill Fine, the FSA’s director of consumer choice, said: “This study does not mean that people should not eat organic food. What it shows is that there is little, if any, nutritional difference between organic and conventionally produced food and that there is no evidence of additional health benefits from eating organic food.”

In reaching their conclusions, the report's authors were accused of pre-empting a Brussels study being carried out by Carlo Leifert, Professor of Ecological Farming at Newcastle University, which is due to be published this year. [A Professor of ecological farming! Well. He would be an unbiased source to go to wouldn't he? But for all he knows about farming, does he know anything about nutrition?] Professor Leifert told The Times that his research found higher level of antioxidants — which help the body to combat cancer and cardiovascular disease — in organic foods. He said that the FSA did not want to admit that there was anything good in organic food. “The Government is worried they will then have to have a policy to make organic food available to everyone,” he said.


Dumb Food Police Lawsuit of the Day

By Debbie Schlussel. Debbie has some good comments below but even she seems to have been hornswoggled about the evils of hamburgers, red meat etc

Whether or not you agree with it, this claim is not news: that a diet heavy in red meat–specifically processed red meat–can be unhealthy and possibly cancerous. It’s part of why I don’t eat more than a couple of burgers a year (the same with hot dogs).

But the food police–specifically the vegetarian food police–have filed a stupid lawsuit against the nation’s largest purveyors of hot dogs. The plaintiffs call themselves, “The Cancer Project,” but that’s really a fake name for the far left vegan anti-war group, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which wants to impose its difficult and abnormal eating habits on the rest of us. This is the same group that wants to stop us from drinking milk.

The gist of their lawsuit is that these meat brands sould be required to use warning labels about cancer on their packaging. But if you don’t know about these claims of cancer, then you haven’t read a paper or magazine in ages, don’t pay attention, and won’t be reading a label on a hot dog or burger package.

Of course, the case will go nowhere. But it will be a complete waste of time and a money drain on the meat product manufacturers. And that’s clearly the goal of this suit. In turn, it will increase the prices of inexpensive meats on consumers. But, hey, that’s the goal of the veggie food police.
“Warning: Consuming hot dogs and other processed meats increases the risk of cancer.” That’s the label that a vegan advocacy group wants a New Jersey court to order Oscar Mayer, Hebrew National and other food companies to slap on hot dog packages.

FYI, the suit also names, Kraft Foods, Inc. (maker of Oscar Mayer), Sara Lee, Nathan’s Famous, among others.
The nonprofit Cancer Project filed a lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of three New Jersey plaintiffs asking the Essex County Superior Court to compel the companies to place cancer-risk warning labels on hot dog packages sold in New Jersey. “Just as tobacco causes lung cancer, processed meats are linked to colon cancer,” said Neal Barnard, president of the Cancer Project and an adjunct professor at the George Washington University medical school in Washington, D.C. “Companies that sell hot dogs are well aware of the danger, and their customers deserve the same information.” . . .

Efforts to put warning labels on hot dog packages are “crazy,” said Josh Urdang, 27, as he stood in line to buy two franks at Pink’s hot dog stand in Hollywood on Tuesday. “It wouldn’t change how many hot dogs I eat. Not at all,” said Urdang, an information technology consultant from Hollywood. His friend Joe Di Lauro, 31, called such a move “overpolicing. . . . At what point do you stop breaking things down? Unless we’re going to put a warning label on every single food and say what’s bad in it.”

Other consumers were skeptical of the Cancer Project’s agenda. “Vegans complaining about hot dogs is like the Amish complaining about gas prices,” said Susan Thatcher of Irvine. . . .

Said Keith-Thomas Ayoob, a nutritionist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York: “There is speculation that nitrosamines can increase cancer risk when consumed in large amounts and frequently. Occasionally should cause no worry. The stuff people typically have with a hot dog may be a more immediate concern: too many calories from all the fat-laden potato and macaroni salads, sugary drinks and sweet desserts.”

Like I said, this suit will go nowhere. But it’ll be like a mini-Obama stimulus: providing make work for lawyers, clogging the court system, and leading to higher prices at the supermarket and restaurants, like Nation’s Famous, for everybody else.

Whether or not hot dogs and other processed meats are bad for you is not the issue. American freedom is. And that includes the freedom to eat whatever you want–good or bad. We don’t need the state setting our diets. Fight back against the food extremists. Eat a hot dog for dinner, today.


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