a1 Laboratory of Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Harokopio University, 70 El. Venizelou Avenue, 17671 Athens, Greece
The demand for organic foods is constantly increasing mainly due to consumers' perception that they are healthier and safer than conventional foods. There is a need for information related to food safety to inform consumers of the health benefits and/or hazards of food products of both origins, in order to optimise the impact on health and minimise the risks. Several gaps and limitations in scientific knowledge with regard to food risk evaluation make it difficult to draw generalised conclusions. Still, some organic foods can be expected to contain fewer agrochemical residues and lower levels of nitrate than conventionally grown alternatives. On the other hand, environmental contaminants are equally present in foods of both origins. With regard to other food hazards, such as natural chemicals, microbial pathogens and mycotoxins, no clear conclusions can be drawn, although several interesting points can be highlighted. It is difficult, therefore, to weigh the risks, but what should be made clear to consumers is that ‘organic’ does not equal ‘safe’. If producers adopt proper agricultural practices and consumers maintain hygienic conditions, risks associated with food contaminants can be minimised, regardless of the food's organic or conventional origin.