A review article published September in the Annals of Internal Medicine confirms that consuming organic foods reduces consumers’ exposure to pesticide residues and to bacteria resistant to antibiotics, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) notes. These are among the top reasons consumers cite for choosing to buy organic products.

“Consumers seeking to minimize their exposure to pesticide residues will find that foods bearing the USDA Organic label are the gold standard. This is because organic foods have the least chemicals applied in their production and the least residues in the final products,” said Christine Bushway, OTA’s Executive Director and CEO. “And, because organic livestock practices forbid the use of antibiotics, including the routine use of low level antibiotics for growth, organic meat contains less antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

Key conclusions in the meta-analysis conducted by Stanford University researchers reviewing published results from 17 human studies and 223 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, milk, eggs, chicken, pork and meat included three main findings:

  • Conventional produce has a 30 percent higher risk for pesticide contamination than organic produce.
  • Conventional chicken and pork have a 33 percent higher risk for contamination with bacteria resistant to three or more antibiotics than organic products do.
  • There is no difference in the food safety risk between organic and conventional foods.

The latest Stanford University research review confirms the health benefits that 78 percent of American families choosing organic foods, at least occasionally, seek. OTA’s 2011 Attitudes and Beliefs Study cites reducing exposure to pesticides and avoiding antibiotics in the food supply as top reasons for choosing organic.

Pointing out that published literature lacks broad evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods, the Stanford University researchers, however, did cite higher levels of total beneficial phenols in organic produce, omega-3 fatty acids in organic milk and chicken, and vaccenic acid in organic chicken.

The link between agronomic practices and nutritional profile of foods is an emerging research topic, Bushway noted, adding, “We are optimistic that in the future, good applied scientific research on organic food and farming will show that healthy soils produce healthy foods.”