"Organic Food Quality"
Organic Food Quality is not really a stand-alone R&D project, but a central research scheme/focus that was investigated as part of a wide range of NEFG contract R&D projects.
Investigations to quantify and improve quality characteristics in organic foods started in 2000 when Newcastle University established the TESCO Centre for Organic Agriculture, which in 2004 became the Nafferton Ecological Farming Group (NEFG).
Initially (2000 to 2004) the main aim was to develop HACCP-based quality assurance systems for organic vegetables, cereals, oil crops and livestock production systems. The main target was to deliver consistent sensory and processing quality and reduce the risk of microbial pathogens, mycotoxins, pesticides or other chemical contaminants from organic food products (see for example Leifert et al. 2008)
After 2004 the EU FP6 project QualityLowInputFood allowed the focus to include comparisons of nutritional composition in both crops and livestock.The main objectives were to study impacts of:
- rotation, fertilisation, crop protection and varieties used in organic and conventional systems on crop composition (e.g. protein profiles, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, pesticides, toxic metals)
- feeding regimes, livestock husbandry and breeds used in organic and conventional systems on milk and meat composition (e.g. antioxidants, protein and fatty acid profiles)
- feeds made from organic and conventional crops on animal physiology, including hormonal balances and immune system responsiveness, and
- trade-offs between crop and livestock health, productivity and food quality and safety parameters
In 2009 a widely publicised FSA-sponsored systematic literature review (Dangour et al. 2009) concluded there was no evidence of significant differences in nutritional composition between organic and conventional crop and livestock products.
This conclusion contradicted most results of (a) literature reviews, (b) controlled field experiements, (c) farm surveys and (d) supermarket surveys that were carried out by scientists from across Europe (included in the QualityLowInputFood consortium). The NEFG team therefore initiated a programme of systematic literature reviews and meta-analyses of published data on composition differences between organic and conventional crops, meat and milk. These reviews/analyses were supported by both the EU (via the QualityLowInputFood, NUE-crops and LowInputBreeds projects) and the Sheepdrove Trust.
- report results from meta-analyses of published data showing that there are significant and nutritionally relevant composition differences between organic and conventional foods
- summarise results from animal dietary intervention studies showing that organic food consumption has significant effects on physiological parameters in animals linked to health (including hormonal balances and immune system responsiveness) and
- review evidence from human cohort studies indicating that there are significant positive associations between organic food consumption and a reduced risk of certain disease
The Organic Food Quality team welcomes the continued public and scientific debate on this important subject. The entire database generated in the systematic literature review and used for the meta-analysis is freely available on the Newcastle University website (http://research.ncl.ac.uk/nefg/QOF) for the benefit of other experts and interested members of the public.
Baranski, M., Srednicka-Tober, D., Volakakis, N., Seal, C., Sanderson, R., Stewart, G.B., Benbrook, C., Biavati, B., Markellou, E., Giotis, C., Gromadzka-Ostrowska, J., Rembialkowska, E., Skwarlo-Sonta, K., Tahvonen, R., Janovska, D., Niggli, U., Nicot, P. & Leifert, C. (2014) Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses. British Journal of Nutrition. 112, 794-811. read more...
milk and dairy
Srednicka-Tober, D., Baranski, M., Seal, C., Sanderson, R., Benbrook, C., Steinshamn, H., Gromadzka-Ostrowska, J., Rembialkowska, E., Skwarlo-Sonta, K., Eyre, M., Cozzi, G., Larsen, M.K., Jordon, T., Niggli, U., Sakowski, T., Calder, P.C., Burdge, G.C., Sotiraki, S., Stefanakis, A., Stergiadis, S., Yolcu, H., Chatzidimitriou, E., Butler, G., Stewart G., Leifert, C. (2016) Higher PUFA and omega-3 PUFA, CLA, α-tocopherol and iron, but lower iodine and selenium concentrations in organic milk: A Systematic Literature Review and Meta- and Redundancy Analyses. British Journal of Nutrition. 115, 1043-1060. read more...
Srednicka-Tober, D., Baranski, M., Sea, C., Sanderson, R., Benbrook, C., Steinshamn, H., Gromadzka-Ostrowska, J., Rembialkowska, E., Skwarlo-Sonta, K., Eyre, M., Cozzi, G., Larsen, M.K., Jordon, T., Niggli, U., Sakowski, T., Calder, P.C., Burdge, G.C., Sotiraki, S., Stefanakis, A., Yolcu, H., Stergiadis, S., Chatzidimitriou, E., Butler, G., Stewart G., Leifert C. (2016) Composition differences between organic and conventional meat; a systematic literature review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Nutrition. 115, 994-1011. read more...