Organic & Conventional Foods: Nutritional Value and Food Safety

Background and methodology
The term “organically grown food” denotes products that have been produced in accordance with principles and practices of organic agriculture. The key principles and practices encourage and enhance biological cycles within the farming system to maintain and increase long-term fertility of soils, maintain genetic diversity, avoid the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides among others. Given the significant increase of consumers’ interest in organic food products, there is a need to determine to what extent there is a scientific basis for claims made for organic produce. Studies comparing foods derived from organic and conventional growing systems were assessed for three key areas: nutritional value, sensory quality and food safety.

It is evident from the assessment that there a few well-controlled studies that are capable of making a valid comparison. With the possible exception of nitrate content, there is no strong evidence that organic and conventional foods differ in concentrations of various nutrients. While there are reports indicating that organic and conventional fruits and vegetables may differ on a variety of sensory qualities, the findings are inconsistent. There is no evidence that organic foods may be more susceptible to microbial contamination than conventional foods.

Bourn, D. & Prescott, J. (2002). A comparison of the nutritional value, sensory qualities and food safety of organically and conventionally produced foods. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 42 (1):1-34.