A newly published scientific study shows that the incidence of eczema in infants fed on organic dairy products, and whose mothers also consumed organic dairy products, is 36% lower than in children who consume conventional dairy products. Whilst there is a significant body of evidence showing that organic food contains higher levels of beneficial nutrients than non-organic foods, this is the first example of a definite health impact (i.e. isolated from other potential beneficial factors) of organic food consumption being published in a peer reviewed journal.
Whilst the study confirms it is organic dairy consumption that protects against the development of eczema, the scientists could only hypothesise as to the mechanism which delivered this protection. Their hypothesis follows the established facts of increased levels of the beneficial conjugated linoleic acid isomers (CLA) found in milk from organically managed cows. A separate recent study confirms that higher levels of conjugated linoleic acids are not only found in cows’ milk but also in the breast milk of women consuming organic milk. This therefore underpins the hypothesis that the higher levels of CLAs in the breast milk of organic milk drinking mothers are a key mechanism in reducing eczema, as well as the organic dairy diet of the infants themselves.
Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director said: “This is the first peer reviewed scientific paper showing a significant health benefit from eating organic food is a major landmark. But the scientists’ findings of over a third fewer cases of eczema among children fits in with the experience of many people who eat organic food. Given the strong evidence that organic has more beneficial nutrients, and the absence of harmful additives, common sense suggests that organic food is better for your health. It’s good to see this starting to be confirmed by scientific research.”
The UK Soil Association’s Standards Board also announced in late October proposed changes to the Soil Association’s standards to ensure that organic food is only air freighted to the UK if it delivers genuine benefits for farmers in developing countries.In future, air freighted organic food will have to meet the Soil Association’s own Ethical Trade standards or the Fairtrade Foundation’s standards. The new air freight standards will also require our licensees to develop plans for reducing any remaining dependence on air freight. Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director said:
“This far-reaching consultation supports our view that it is right to continue to allow some organic air freight, but only with these new and demanding requirements.” Typically, organic farming uses 30% less energy than non-organic agriculture.
I spoke to Peter Melchett about these two issues and started off by asking him about the recent research which has found that organic dairy products actually do have a proven health benefit for the consumer.