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Tuesday, 8 February, 2000, 03:47 GMT
Millions turn to organic food

Carrots Organic vegetables are increasingly popular

More than one person in four now eats some form of organic food, according to a survey by Health Which? magazine.

However, the survey also found that many people are put off organic food by high prices.

Food under the microscope
Health Which? found that organic food was rated as healthier, safer and tastier than products produced by mainstream farming methods.

These practices have been tainted by scandals such as the BSE crisis, and fears about the possible health risks of genetic modification.

The survey found that 29% of people opt to eat some organic products.

The most popular product was fruit and vegetables, bought by 18% of those who were surveyed.

One in 10 people occasionally bought organic meat, dairy products and bread, the survey found.

Of those who did opt for organic alternatives, 60% gave health as their main reason, while half said they were attracted by the lack of pesticides in products.

Just under half (46%) thought organic food contained more vitamins and minerals, while 9% were worried about genetic modification and 6% about the link between BSE and the human form of mad cow disease, CJD.

More than a quarter - 29% - thought that organic alternatives simply tasted better than traditionally-farmed food.

Only 8% "went organic" because they thought the farming practices were better for the environment.

High price a turn off

Cows There is concern about BSE
Sales of organic food are rising sharply, but only 2% of people questioned said they always ate organic food.

The higher cost of organic food was the main reason for customers sticking to traditional products, with 45% of people who did not buy organic citing price as the turn-off.

Supermarkets insist that they do not mark up prices on organic foods to make extra profits, saying the higher cost is because farming methods are more expensive.

Mary Weston, co-ordinator of the Organic Lifestock Marketing Co-operative said: "There are higher costs involved because we are starting from such a low base of organic food available that it costs a lot to move around and transport.

"Availability is quite low and it does cost more to grow and farm things organically.

"But demand is shooting up, and while it may take a long time, if customers stick with it prices will come down."

Charlotte Gann, Editor of Health Which?, said: "It is likely that organic meat is a good bet. And tests show that you are less likely to serve up a helping of pesticide residues if you eat organic fruit and veg."

However, Gail Goldberg, a nutrition scientist for the British Nutrition Foundation, said: "There is no evidence yet that organic food is any more superior nutritionally than conventionally produced foods."

Health Which? magazine interviewed 2,000 people in the UK for the survey.

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See also:
03 Jan 00 |  Sci/Tech
Organic food 'proven' healthier
17 Sep 99 |  Sheffield 99
Organic farming can 'feed the world'
16 Sep 99 |  Medical notes
Pesticides and health
19 Jan 00 |  Health
CJD 'will not be an epidemic'

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