Organic food row sweeps UK

UK - Rows over the possible superior health benefits of organic food have swamped the headlines in the UK, as new figures show organic milk sales again rose strongly in 2006.
calendar icon 10 January 2007
clock icon 2 minute read
Sales of organic milk jumped more than 28 per cent, around 35m litres, in the year up to November, according to TNS data published by the Milk Development Council.

The news comes as rows over the difference between organic and conventional produce have again hit headlines.

UK environment minister, David Miliband, told the Sunday Times newspaper in an interview that organic food was a lifestyle choice but not superior to conventionally produced food.

His comments aroused the wrath of organic food supporters, such as the Soil Association, which believe lower use of pesticides and more environmentally friendly practices make organic production more sustainable and potentially better for consumers.

Government officials have repeatedly refused to give organic food any superiority, conscious, critics believe, that any such statement may automatically label 96 per cent of the country's food supply as substandard.

Only four per cent of UK food is sourced from organic production.

Britain's Food Standards Agency recently recognised some nutritional difference between organic and conventional milk, but refused to say organic was healthier. Its statement came after a study found higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in organic milk.

Still, consumers continue to embrace the organic revolution in record numbers, particularly in dairy, prompting retailers and processors to increase their offerings.

Tesco, where organic milk sales were up 45 per cent year-on-year recently, will pay £400 per year for the next three years in an effort to convert more farmers from the conventional sector.

And Robert Wiseman, which supplies 60 per cent of Tesco's organic milk needs, has begun building a state-of-the-art dairy plant it claims will be “a centre of excellence for organic milk production”.

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