Food Quality and Possible Positive Health Effects of Organic Products

  • Denis LaironEmail author
  • Machteld Huber


For decades, organic agriculture developed strategies to produce plant and animal foods with mandatory high standards based on certification at the production and processing levels. This coincided with the growing demand of consumers for accessible, environmentally-friendly, nutritional and safe foods. In this context, although limited and difficult to generalise due to the existence of many conflicting factors, comparative studies have been dedicated to the nutritional content and safety characteristics of organic vs. conventional foods. In this chapter, we review the main characteristics of organic foods in terms of their nutritional, safety and health aspects. The main findings of this review are: (i) a number of organic plant products tend to contain more dry matter, some minerals (Mg) and antioxidants (phenolics/flavonoids, salicylic acid); (ii) organic cow and chicken meats and cow’s milk contain more omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids; (iii) the vast majority (94–100 %) of organic food does not contain any residues of synthetic pesticides; (iv) organic vegetables contain significantly less nitrates; and (vi) organic cereals generally contain less protein but overall comparable mycotoxin levels are the same as conventional ones. Additionally, some health studies have highlighted benefits from organic dairy products for ectopic allergy in young children and some positive health indications in animals. Potential methods to evaluate the authenticity and quality of organic foods are discussed.

Overall, it appears that organic agricultural systems, just like pioneers in sustainable agriculture, have already proven to be capable of growing foods with high quality standards, but scientific evidence regarding the effects of organic foods on health is still lacking.


Sustainable agriculture Organic agriculture Human food Nutrition Food safety Contaminants Health 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Univ d’Aix Marseille-INSERM-INRA, UMR1062 NORT Nutrition, obésité et risque thrombotiqueMarseille Cedex 5France
  2. 2.Department of Healthcare & NutritionLouis Bolk InstituteDriebergenThe Netherlands

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