Organic food: the question of safety
This is part three of a three-part series on organic foods originally published by Food Sentry on May 31, 2013. Part one is here: The Low-Down on Organic Foods. The second part is here: Organic vs non-organic: what’s the difference? Are organic food products safer than non-organic food products? Given the requirements set out in National Organic Program legislation and what conventional wisdom says about pesticides and antibiotics, the logical assumption would be that organic food products are indeed safer and less risky than non-organic food products. biological. However, research into the safety differences between biologics and their non-biologic counterparts has essentially concluded that, given the currently available data (all research points to data limitations), it appears that the safety differences between the two Product categories are not as broad as logic and conventional wisdom might dictate. According to recent studies and the limited data on which they are based:
- Pesticide residues are generally present on both organic and non-organic produce and, on average, appear to be present in lower concentrations on organic produce. However, although it seems obvious that food is healthier when it is free from pesticide residue contamination, there is very limited/insufficient data from reliable studies showing that legal pesticide residues are dangerous. real to humans when ingested at levels permitted by law. Most studies tend to agree on the fact that the benefits derived from the reduction of exposure to pesticide residues obtained by the consumption of organic products are negligible. Be aware that this is a controversial area among scientists, with strong agendas at stake.
- Microbiological contaminants (e.g. bacteria such as E.coli) are generally present on organic and non-organic products to varying degrees. Some research has shown that organic materials have lower microbiological contamination, while other research has found the opposite. The presence of microbiological contaminants may not vary much (if at all) between the two types of products; however, there is a lower incidence of antimicrobial resistant strains on biologics.
- Toxic metal contamination of organic produce was found to be similar to that of non-organic produce, and most research found the differences to be negligible.
- Food additives are also limited in organic products and are therefore generally present in lesser quantities than in non-organic products. However, most approved food additives do not appear to be toxic when used within established limits.
- Other contaminants such as nitrates (found in synthetic fertilizers) seem on average less present in organic products, although they are still present. Some scientists have cited various examples in which organic foods have higher levels of secondary metabolites (eg, polyphenol compounds, antioxidants) as a positive characteristic. Others have indicated that it may pose a health risk due to the supposed increased presence of natural toxins (which some research has shown are just as potent as synthetic toxins), resulting from increased use. by the plant’s natural defense mechanisms.
We cannot stress enough that, as things stand, many of the research conclusions regarding the safety of organic versus non-organic products are premature. All of the studies cite a lack of data as a limiting factor in their conclusions, but with the data that was collected, these were the assumptions that were logically made. You might be surprised at the conclusions above, but organic food is a hot topic in the business and scientific sectors, as well as among consumers. Our review of the science so far indicates that, despite what you may hear, there is still a lot of ambiguity in the data regarding the nutritional value and health benefits of organic foods. Food Sentry’s own data shows more than 50 organic food recalls over the past year in Canada and the United States. Reported contaminants include Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, cadmium and mycotoxins. It is worth knowing that although great care may be taken in growing and harvesting food, contamination can be introduced anywhere in the production process, and organic food is not immune to food. free from this problem. The security response Based on the data currently available, there is not much evidence showing that organic products are completely safer than non-organic products. The thing is, there is still a lot of research to be done before any firm conclusions can be drawn about the safety differences. In the meantime, however, what can you do to maximize your food safety and mitigate risk? In general, the same rules that apply to non-organic foods also apply to organic products:
- Wash and scrub your products carefully before consuming them;
- Store perishables in the refrigerator and beware of perishables left at room temperature for more than two or three hours;
- Keep meats separate from produce during preparation;
- Do not use food that looks moldy or has passed its best before date;
- Cook meats and eggs well before eating them;
- And, of course, wash your hands before and after handling food products.
Until further research is done, what you need to decide as an individual when considering the purchase of organic products is whether or not the potential risks posed by the substances used in production non-organic foods such as pesticides, synthetic chemicals/additives, and antibiotics, etc., justify buying organic products to try to minimize your exposure to these substances. It’s a personal decision. Our goal here is to provide you with information that can help you make a decision that you are comfortable with.