QLIF Congress 2005
Health in focus
Organic food quality and human health was the focus on the international congress in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK in January 2005. The latest research on nutrient composition, mycotoxins, food pathogens and pesticides in organic and conventional food was introduced in the opening presentation "Is organic food good for you?" by Professor Carlo Leifert from Newcastle University, UK.
With regard to nutrient composition, Professor Carlo Leifert showed that organically produced food had a higher level of specific antioxidants compared to conventionally produced food. Results showed a higher vitamin and CLA content in organic milk and dairy products and a higher level of omega-3 fatty acids in organic milk compared to conventional. Furthermore, organic fruit and vegetables was shown to have a higher content of phenolic and flavonoid. The flavonoid content was higher in both the diet and the urine of persons having an organic intervention diet. Concerning deleterious minerals, organic fruit and vegetables had a lower level of lead, aluminium and mercury while the level of beneficial minerals was higher compared to conventional fruit and vegetables.
The question of mycotoxin levels in grain was addressed presenting several studies reporting a higher Fusarium infection and/or mycotoxin levels in conventional than organic samples.
Research on food pathogens showing that grass based "organic" cattle diets reduce the risk of E.coli contamination, while grain based "conventional" diets increase the risk, was furthermore presented by Professor Carlo Leifert. An increased share of grains in diets decreased pH and increased E.coli in rumen and colon and increased the percentage of animals shedding E.coli. Additionally, a higher share of ampicillin resistant E.coli was found in conventional than organic dairy herds in Scotland.
With regard to health effects of pesticides, Professor Carlo Leifert presented research on neurotoxicity associated with organophosphorous and chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides and endocrine system disruption caused by pesticides with oestrogenic proporties. Results showed that men eating organic food had significantly higher sperm counts than those eating conventional food. Research on linkages between exposure to pesticides and the risk of cancer or low immune status was also presented. Finally, results from Switzerland showed that rats preferred organic rather than conventional beetroot.
About the congress
The congress was arranged by the EU-Integrated Project QualityLowInputFood (QLIF) in collaboration with the Soil Association. Additionally, the first day of the congress was organised by the EU-financed projects Blight-MOP and Organic HACCP, respectively.
The main aim of the congress aimed at presenting research, initiating discussions, enable stakeholders to influence future research and contributing to improved quality and safety in production and processing.
Producers, processors and traders/retailers of foods from organic and "low input" production systems joined the congress along with other stakeholders such as consumer organisations, political decision makers, NGOs, media and agricultural supply and service industries.
On the following pages the abstracts from the congress will be presented: