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Assessment of food safety in organic farming

Hansen, Birgitte; Alrøe, Hugo Fjelsted; Kristensen, Erik Steen and Wier, Mette (2002) Assessment of food safety in organic farming. DARCOF Working Papers, no. 52, Danish Research Centre for Organic Farming . [Unpublished]

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Public concern about food safety in Europe has grown in response to the BSE scandal and problems with Salmonella and Campylobacter, etc. Such health and safety considerations are among the most important incentives for buying organic food, and have helped to promote rapid growth in the organic sector.
Against this background the present article reviews food safety from an organic perspective. To our knowledge this has not been done previously. A novel definition is introduced which incorporates safety aspects of both the product and the agri-food-system. A Driving force-State-Impact-Response (DSIR) framework, that incorporates recent findings relating to organic products, is employed to analyse processes that control the safety of food. The safety of the agri-food-system is still poorly understood, but an introduction to the concept is given because of its relevance in an holistic organic setting.
It is generally felt that safety is greater with organic than with conventional foods, mainly because of the precautionary principle followed in the formulation of organic regulations and in the assessment of food safety. High standards of product safety in organic foods are promoted by a) lower nitrogen applications (which reduce nitrate concentrations), b) the ban on pesticides (which results in almost no pesticide residues), and c) the ban on prophylactics and the requirement for double retention times in animal production systems (to ensure low concentrations of medicine residues). These effects may minimise the incidence of cancer and the transfer of resistance genes from animal production systems to human pathogens.
Examples of reduced product safety in organic products can also be found, for example: a) mycotoxins in organic cereals exposed to inappropriate storage conditions, and b) Salmonella and Campylobacter infections caused by the extended exposure of animals to out-door conditions. It is however possible to reduce these risks. In particular, regulation of the processing of organic foods results in higher product safety due to a limit of no more than 5% non-organic components, and the ban on irradiation, colouring agents, sweeteners, synthetic additives, flavouring, GMOs and trans fatty acids. There seems to be a trend towards higher agri-food-system safety in organic compared to conventional farming systems due to a) the provision of more information through the labelling of organic food, and b) lower impacts on the environment.

EPrint Type:Working paper
Keywords:food safety, product safety, agri-food-system safety, organic farming, Driving force-State-Impact-Response (DSIR) framework
Subjects: Food systems > Food security, food quality and human health
Knowledge management > Research methodology and philosophy > Specific methods > Indicators and other value-laden measures
Research affiliation: Denmark > DARCOF II (2000-2005) > V.1 (SYNERGY) Coordination and synergy
Deposited By: Alrøe, PhD Hugo Fjelsted
ID Code:206
Deposited On:06 Nov 2002
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:27
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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