Organic milk 'no healthier'Food watchdog says standard milk is as good

21 September 2006

 

Two cows in a field eating grass.

A call by a group of scientists to declare organic milk healthier than standard milk has been rejected by the government’s food watchdog.

The 14 scientists, several of whom have researched the differences between organic and standard milk, wrote to the Food Standards Agency stating that organic had higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids, which are thought to boost health and protect against cardiovascular disease.

But the FSA says that while organic milk appears to contain higher levels of omega 3s, they are the wrong type.

It says evidence points to organic milk containing higher levels of an acid known as ALA. This is a ‘short-chain’ fatty acid rather than the ‘long-chain’ varieties which can help fight cardiovascular disease.

Omega 3

The FSA says: ‘Short-chain fatty acids can be converted to these long-chain omega 3 fatty acids...However the conversion rate of the short-chain fatty acids to the longer chain fatty acids appears to be very limited.’

In a letter to the scientists, the FSA said that consuming organic milk in volumes ‘consistent with a healthy balanced diet’ would not provide enough of the long-chain fatty acids to enjoy the health benefits.

The letter concluded: ‘The new evidence you have provided, while interesting, does not justify the assertion that organic milk provides health benefits other than those associated with conventionally produced milk.

‘It would therefore not be appropriate to advise consumers to switch to organic milk for reasons related to dietary health.’

Positive step

The Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative (Omsco), which backed the original letter, said the FSA had been asked to recognise a ‘nutritional difference’ rather than declare organic milk healthier.

But Marketing Manager Rosie Palmer welcomed the FSA's recognition of the higher levels of omega 3s in principle.

‘They did what we asked them to do, which was acknowledge the compositional difference between organic and non-organic milk. That was a positive step.’