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[SANET-MG] toxic organic baby food
FSA seems to be an agency serving industry that first should be
investigated before more baby food is fouled.
Sun 18 Jul 2004 the scotsman
Organic baby food 'worst for toxins'
ORGANIC baby foods carry higher toxin levels than conventional products,
according to a damning new report by the Food Standards Agency.
While many parents are prepared to pay a premium of up to an extra 20p,
or 30%, for a jar of organic food, the survey found that three of the
top four products with the highest levels of toxins were organic, while
none of the 10 baby foods with the lowest toxin levels had the organic
Consumers’ groups last night demanded clearer information on food to
allow shoppers to make the best choices, while organic producers called
for more research to allow them to avoid contaminated ingredients.
The food watchdog bought 124 samples of different brands of baby food.
They were then tested for PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and dioxins,
which are man-made pollutants present in the environment as a result of
PCBs and dioxins have been linked with cancer in humans and their
production has been banned since the 1970s, although large amounts of
chemicals still linger in water, soil, and the atmosphere.
While the study showed that toxins in the food were well within the
levels recommended by scientists even for babies, they discovered that
the amounts varied dramatically, even between products containing
ostensibly similar ingredients.
And despite its clean and healthy reputation, organic food is no more
free of toxins than conventionally produced baby food.
In all, four of the top 10 foods with the highest levels of toxins
carried the organic label. Meanwhile, none of the 10 most toxin-free
products was organic.
In one example, an organic shepherd’s pie had 90 times the level of the
chemicals of its non-organic equivalent.
In addition, while fish products have recently been the focus of
considerable criticism over their levels of PCBs and dioxins, the only
non-organic fish product tested had the lowest level of toxins, while
the organic fish products were among the most affected by the chemicals.
Even within the same brands, organic products fared no better than
Although two organic products from Cow & Gate had high concentrations of
toxins, two of their conventional baby foods were among the top 10 cleanest.
The Consumers’ Association last night called for more information to be
on food packets to allow buyers to make their selections.
Julia Clark, of the Consumers’ Association Scotland, said: "What is very
clear is that many people are confused about what exactly the meaning of
the organic label is. People should have the option of buying organic
foods, but it should be clear what that involves. Buyers need clearer
information about what is in their food so that they can make the most
informed choices for themselves."
Dr John Webster, an expert in food science who advises the food
industry, said: "I think that many people in the organic sector have
created a problem for themselves by allowing people to think that
organic always means that you are receiving a healthier, premium product.
"The reality is that organic is more about a form of production which is
seen as being more sustainable by using natural fertilisers and methods,
rather than actually being necessarily much healthier."
But producers claimed that levels of these toxins were outwith their
A spokesman for the Soil Association, which regulates organic food
producers, said: "Although we avoid the use of chemical pesticides and
fertilisers, factors such as PCBs and dioxins are not something we can
do very much about because they are in the environment and all around
us. It shows the need to use cleaner methods of production in future so
that we can reduce the levels of pollution for future generations."
A spokeswoman for Cow & Gate, whose organic products had high levels of
toxins while their conventional foods were some of the least affected,
said: "The key thing to remember is that all the products are well
within the set safety limits and they are absolutely safe. We strive to
make sure levels of pesticides and chemicals are kept to an absolute
minimum. The levels of PCBs and dioxins are as a result of pollution in
the rest of the environment, which is out of our control."
One leading organic food producer called for more research into toxins.
A spokeswoman for the company Organix said: "We welcome these tests and
we would like to see more guidance from the government so that we could
make sure that toxin levels in food are reduced. Testing for PCBs and
dioxins is very expensive and we would ideally like to be able to do it
ourselves if possible. Intelligent testing of all the ingredients rather
than finished products would allow us to source ingredients from the
cleanest sources and make products even safer."
She claimed that the comparison between the organic shepherd’s pie and
the conventional product was misleading because the non-organic pie was
a powdered product which contained fewer whole ingredients.
A spokeswoman for Boots, whose fish pie was the second highest for
concentration of toxins, said: "We’d like to reassure customers that
Boots baby foods are completely safe to use and that they should not be
worried by this report.
"The FSA report simply confirms that any levels of contaminants found in
baby foods are low and well within the recommended safety levels."
The FSA estimated that a child eating baby food which had a higher level
of toxins would receive 0.7 picograms of toxins per kg of bodyweight per
day. That compares to the recommended safe level of two picograms per day.
A spokeswoman for the FSA said: "The most significant finding from this
study is that all the products surveyed had levels of PCBs and dioxins
which were well within the guidelines."
Earlier this year the Scottish salmon industry was rocked by a report
claiming that its product had high levels of toxins.
Although scientists said that the levels were well within safety limits,
exports were still hit by the scare.
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