Salmonella outbreak in Spinach

Spinach recall divides growers, lawmakers

90 percent of suspect vegetable didn’t hit shelves — is that good enough?

Image: California spinach farm
Eight-thousand cartons of spinach from a California grower were recalled Wednesday after salmonella was found during a routine test. Industry officials hailed the recall as a success, but consumer advocates and some lawmakers say the incident exposed big gaps in food safety.
Updated: 11:15 p.m. ET Aug. 30, 2007

FRESNO, Calif. - Consumer advocates and some lawmakers say that a Salinas Valley company’s recall of spinach because of a salmonella scare shows that the federal government must do more to protect the nation’s food supply, but industry officials call it proof that their voluntary regulations are working.

Metz Fresh, a King City-based grower and shipper, recalled 8,000 cartons of fresh spinach Wednesday after salmonella was found during a routine test of spinach it was processing for shipment. More than 90 percent of the possibly contaminated cartons never reached stores, company spokesman Greg Larson said.

California’s leafy greens industry adopted the voluntary regulations last year after a fatal E. coli outbreak, but advocates said a national, mandatory inspection and testing program overseen by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is needed

Eight thousand cartons left the plant for distribution in the U.S. That’s 8,000 too many,” said Jean Halloran, a food safety expert with Consumers Union. “At this point, we are relying on the leafy green industry to police itself.”

Growers: Proof regulations work
Some growers said Metz Fresh’s ability to catch the bacteria showed that the new testing regimes are working. No illnesses have been reported from eating spinach linked to the company.

“I think the test of the industry is how we react to these types of situations,” said grower Joseph Pezzini, who heads the board that administers the new produce safety rules. “No one was harmed by the product and that’s important.”

Larsen said the recalled spinach, which was picked Aug. 22, had tested negative in earlier field and production tests. Metz Fresh began telling stores and restaurants on Aug. 24 not to sell or serve the lettuce after a first round of tests came up positive.

“The first thing we are looking at right now is making sure this product, as much as possible, is under our control,” he said. “The next step is to back up and take a hard look at how this happened.”

Metz Fresh has complied with the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement, a set of voluntary food safety rules drafted after last year’s E. coli outbreak in fresh spinach killed three people and sickened 200. By joining the program, participants also agree to have their fields and plants checked for compliance.

In two separate plant and field visits earlier this month, California auditors found no signs of danger at Metz Fresh, said Scott Horsfall, who oversees the industry-sponsored program.

“I’m not trying to put a pretty face on it, but the overall system is working very well,” Horsfall said. “Consumers can have a high degree of confidence in this product, notwithstanding this recent problem.”

Lawmakers: More work to be done
But some legislators said the latest recall showed the FDA had yet to improve a patchwork produce safety system critics believe is vastly understaffed and poorly monitored.

“This in no way should be seen as a success story,” said state Sen. Dean Florez, who chairs a committee on food-borne illnesses. He said that Metz Fresh should have caught the salmonella before any of its spinach reached consumers, and that he has written the state’s agriculture secretary demanding answers about “this breakdown in California’s food safety system.”

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is crafting legislation that would set up national food safety practices for growing and processing fresh produce that run the highest risk of causing food-borne illnesses.

“This is a food safety concern for consumers who wonder if it is OK to serve this produce to their families, and it is an agricultural concern for growers who face another blow to sales of their product,” said Harkin, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. “It is long overdue for the FDA to exercise more oversight of food safety practices.”

FDA and state public health officials said Thursday they were investigating the company’s records, tests and products.

The recall covers 10- and 16-ounce bags, as well as 4-pound cartons and cartons that contain four, 2.5-pound bags, with the following tracking codes: 12208114, 12208214 and 12208314.

The California Department of Public Health and the Food And Drug Administration are investigating the Metz Fresh processing facility in King City.

Salmonella sickens about 40,000 people a year in the U.S. and kills about 600.

Why I decided on my No-mammal diet?

Wadda you mean
No Mammals!

And Yes, its a kooky diet!

If you decide to ask why,
My answer changes
every time

It began as a health reason, I was a huge meat lover, when the faddish Atkins diets came out, I was overjoyed, thanked Dr Atkins for putting a whole stamp on this diet. Hated my veggies and deeply loved my Beef and Roo. Obsessed about anything gamey and bloody.

Being on a pure meat diet, biologically, my body was emitting so much heat or yang qi, a good friend who was a TCM student (traditional chinese medicine) actually felt hot just sitting next to me. He had mentioned I had an overly yang energy field and that brought on a lot of side effects.
I had difficulties adjusting to the warm tropical climate and often stick myself to air-conditioned places whenever I could. I was perspiring profusely and felt heavy all the time.

Then I was introduced into Theosophy and Spiritualism. I had a few spiritual awakenings while doing a lot of inner works. Through these awakenings, I came to realise it made sense not to eat Mammals, animals with higher conscious than the rest of the animal kingdom. Being on meat diet made me depressive, hot tempered, easy agitated, I had always been a rather high-strung person and being on the meat diet partly attributed that. Eliminating them from my body helped for more clearer and cleaner spiritual experience.

The old adage of you are what you eat, is definitely true. Meat lovers tend to be rather animistic in their thinking and behavior. They have rather rough and crude energy compared to those with lighter diets such as pure vegetarianism.

So what about animal cruelty then? Well, that thought didn't really go through my mind. Logically, since animals are farmed and intentionally bred as food, they are conditioned as food, therefore it was not cruel.

Before you start ranting on me on animal cruelty, I do believe these animals are intelligent beings with consciousness and by eating them, I am assimilating their energies/consciousness. If I am to seriously work on my spiritual evolution, I should eliminate these energies in my physical body, allowing a more separate and cleaner body to work on.

So there you go, why I decided on my No Mammal diet?

For now, its Spiritual evolution.

I might change my answer when it gets tired.

My Extremely Slow Journey into Non-Mammal Diet and perhaps Vegetarianism

More than four years past since I decided to go on a non-mammalian diet. Quite proud of myself for not intentionally eating mammals. It all started in 2001 when I attended one of Tony Robbins course (can't remember the name, its his first basic mass course before he convinces us all to pay for his more expensive ones). I had tried not eating red meat for 2 weeks before giving up on the notion. I was simply not gonna give up my carnivorous diet of beef and lamb, I was a proud meat eater!

What's a non-mammalian diet? Basically a no-no on eating any warm-blooded vertebrate animals Mammals are classified as having the skin more or less covered with hair; young are born alive except for the small subclass of monotremes and nourished with milk.
Simply put, no beef, no lamb, no pork, kangaroos, possums, boar, buffalo etc. Those were once my favorite meats ; no more beef or roos!.

What can I eat then? Seafood, insects, poultry and reptiles.

I dabbled with this diet between 2001-2003 before finally converted myself to a strict non-mammalian diet. Doing it on a very slow and gradual transition worked and I am even considering giving up poultry. It's a little more difficult this time and I am still unwilling to give up my roast duck and chicken rice.

Ideally my diet should consist mainly of vegetables and insects then complete vegetarianism.
Well let's see how that goes... slow and easy...

Documentary : The Future of Food

You can buy the dvd here :

This documentary was written and directed by Deborah Koons, produced by Catherine Butler and Deborah Koons. It was released in 2004, and had quite a large You-Tube following last year. Apparently the documentary mysteriously disappeared off the video shelves and hence some nice folks started uploading it all over the torrent world.

Taken from the website

"We used to be a nation of farmers, but now it's less than two percent of the population in the United States. So a lot of us don't know a lot about what it takes to grow food."

- Judith Redmond, Full Belly Farms

There is a revolution happening in the farm fields and on the dinner tables of America -- a revolution that is transforming the very nature of the food we eat.

THE FUTURE OF FOOD offers an in-depth investigation into the disturbing truth behind the unlabeled, patented, genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled U.S. grocery store shelves for the past decade.

From the prairies of Saskatchewan, Canada to the fields of Oaxaca, Mexico, this film gives a voice to farmers whose lives and livelihoods have been negatively impacted by this new technology. The health implications, government policies and push towards globalization are all part of the reason why many people are alarmed by the introduction of genetically altered crops into our food supply.

Shot on location in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, THE FUTURE OF FOOD examines the complex web of market and political forces that are changing what we eat as huge multinational corporations seek to control the world's food system. The film also explores alternatives to large-scale industrial agriculture, placing organic and sustainable agriculture as real solutions to the farm crisis today.

Here's the first 10mins of it on You-Tube :
(To the Movie producers : please don't sue me because of this link)

Quote from Joseph Goebbels : on Propaganda

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State."

(German "Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda,")


Article : San Francisco's vegetarian restaurants

Comments : Here's another reason why I would like to live in San Francisco, their huge vegetarian restaurant scene.

Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

While San Francisco may not have as many exclusively vegetarian restaurants as New York or Los Angeles, many newer restaurants feature extensive vegetarian offerings from chefs who respect the concept, rather than treating it as an irksome neurosis. Millennium, a giant on the city's vegetarian restaurant scene, has become the gold standard of American vegan cuisine. Shown here, its roasted pepper and broccoli.
Photo: Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

nytimesPeter DaSilva for The New York Times

Eric Tucker, the chef at Millennium, is known for a polyglot style that marries ingredients and techniques from diverse cuisines with a sense of how best to celebrate Northern California’s vegetable bounty.
Photo: Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

The food at Millennium attains a gustatory cohesion not suggested by the eclectic ingredients. From left, the masa pibes with huitlacoche, cornmeal crusted oyster mushrooms and a mocha chocolate cream tort.
Photo: Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Nearly all the food at Café Gratitude is raw, like this flatbread with raw cashew mozzarella, which means the kitchen knows secrets about fruits and vegetables hidden to most of us.
Photo: Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Café Gratitude has an intimate space, with big tables that encourage sharing among a crowd of Burning Man enthusiasts, New Agers and earnest world changers — in other words, a friendly and lively scene. Photo: Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Gratitude’s dishes are named for uplifting adjectives, rewarding self-affirmation with sustenance. From left, the "I Am Splendid" mojito, the "I Am devoted" coconut cream pie, and the "I Am rich" orange, carrot, beet and lemon "sunrise" on ice.
Photo: Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Herbivore’s menu is broad, but loses its way outside comfort food standbys. Try their pancakes topped with fried bananas.
Photo: Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Peter DaSilva for The New York Times
Spring rolls with tofu and peanut sauce at Golden Era, one of the better-known restaurants representing the vegetarian tradition of the Far East.
Photo: Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Greens, run by the San Francisco Zen Center, has become an institution since opening in 1979. It is in an airy space at Fort Mason Center, on San Francisco Bay; hold out for a seat by the windows to watch the sun set through the Golden Gate.
Photo: Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Peter DaSilva for The New York Times
Potato-leek griddle cakes with manchego and chives at Greens.
Photo: Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Peter DaSilva for The New York Times
The wilted savoy spinach salad at Greens. The restaurant brought vegetarian food beyond sprout-infested health food stores and established it as a cuisine in America.
Photo: Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Article: Cooking, Malnutrition & Cancer

On why we should incorporate raw foods in our daily diet.

Cooking, Malnutrition and Cancer

ARTHUR BAKER, MA / Living Nutrition Magazine v.10 2001

Eighty million species on earth (about 700,000 of which are animals) thrive on raw food. Only humans apply heat to their food. Humans on average, as a race, die at or below half their potential life span, from chronic illness that is largely related to diet and lifestyle. Domesticated pets also are fed cooked, processed, packaged food that likewise is denatured by heat. As a consequence, they suffer from the diseases of humanity, including cancer, arthritis and other degenerative diseases.

Excessive Heat Denatures Nutrients

Burn your finger and skin tissue dies. With the heating of food at high temperatures, nutrients are progressively destroyed.. Fresh food prior to wilting or rotting provides for a high degree of wellness. Harvested food from field and orchard provides raw materials to replenish your cells and tissues. Food with the life cooked out of it destroys live plant and animal tissue so that their nutrients no longer bear any relationship to your living body. A diet containing an abundance of raw, unfired food maximizes well being.

The chemical changes that take place to individual nutrients, as excessive heat is applied will now be examined. It is well understood and recognized in scientific literature that heat breaks down vitamins and amino acids and produces undesirable cross-linkages in proteins, particularly in meat. These are the changes that take place as food is cooked above 117 degrees Fahrenheit for three minutes or longer. Damage becomes progressively worse at higher temperatures over longer periods
of time.

  • proteins coagulate,

  • high temperatures denature protein molecular structure, leading to deficiency of some essential amino acids,

  • carbohydrates caramelize,

  • overly heated fats generate numerous carcinogens including acrolein, nitrosamines, hydrocarbons, and benzopyrene (one of the most potent cancer-causing agents known),

  • natural fibers break down, cellulose is completely changed from its natural condition, losing its ability to sweep the alimentary canal clean,

  • 30% to 50% of vitamins and minerals are destroyed,

  • 100% of enzymes are damaged,

  • the body¹s enzyme potential is depleted which drains energy needed to maintain and repair tissue and organ systems, thereby shortening our life span,

  • pesticides are restructured into even more toxic compounds,

  • valuable oxygen is lost,

  • free radicals are produced,

  • cooked food pathogens enervate the immune system,

  • heat degenerates nucleic acids and chlorophyll,

  • cooking causes inorganic mineral elements to enter the blood and circulate through the system, which settle in the arteries and veins, causing arteries to lose their pliability,

  • the body prematurely ages as this inorganic matter is deposited in various joints or accumulates within internal organs, including the heart valves.

As temperature rises, each of these damaging events reduces the availability of individual nutrients. Modern food processing not only strips away natural anti-cancer agents, but searing heat forms potent cancer-producing chemicals in the process. Alien food substances are created that the body cannot metabolize. For example, according to research performed by cancerologist Dr. Bruce Ames, professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at University of California, Berkeley various groups of chemicals from cooked food cause tumors:

  • Nitrosamines are created from fish, poultry or meat cooked in gas ovens and barbecues, as nitrogen oxides within gas flames interact with fat residues;

  • Hetrocyclic amines form from heating proteins and amino acids;

  • Polycyclic hydrocarbons are created by charring meat;

  • Mucoid plaque, a thick tar-like substance builds up in the intestines on a diet of cooked foods. Mucoid plaque is caused by uneliminated, partially digested, putrefying cooked fatty and starch foods eaten in association with protein flesh foods;

  • Another toxin, lipofuscin, is an accumulation of waste materials throughout the body and within cells of the skin. This manifests as ³age-spots²; in the liver as ³liver-spots²; and in the nervous system including the brain, it possibly contributes to ossification of gray matter and senility.

From the book Diet, Nutrition and Cancer published by the Nutritional Research Council of the American Academy of Sciences (1982) and the Food and Drug Administration Office of Toxicological Sciences, additional carcinogens in heated foods include:

  • Hydroperoxide, alkoxy, endoperoxides and epoxides from heated meat, eggs, fish and pasteurized milk;

  • Ally aldehyde (acrolein), butyric acid, nitropyrene, nitrobenzene and nitrosamines from heated fats and oils;

  • Methyglyoxal and chlorogenic atractyosides in coffee;

  • Indole, skatole, nitropyrene, ptomatropine, ptomaines, leukomaines, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, cadaverine, muscarine, putrecine, nervine, and mercaptins in cheese.

It is no coincidence that since the proliferation of processed food, beginning about 1950, cancer rates in the United States have steadily increased and are now at an all-time high. The consumption of overcooked food leads to malnutrition. The body, forced to raid its dwindling supply of nutrient reserves, remains hungry for quality nutrients. The effect of the Standard American Diet (SAD) is to leave one hungry even though the stomach is full. The result is the chronic overeating and rampant obesity seen nationwide.

source: editor 1oct 2003

Article by Virginia Worthington on Organic Produce

First published in: THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE Volume 7, Number 2, 2001 PP. 161—173 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

Nutritional Quality of Organic Versus Conventional Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains

Virginia Worthington, M.S., Sc.D., C.N.S.


Objectives: To survey existing literature comparing nutrient content of organic and conventional crops using statistical methods to identify significant differences and trends in the data.

Design: Published comparative measurements of organic and conventional nutrient content were entered into a database for calculation. For each organic-to-conventional comparison, a percent difference was calculated:

(organic — conventional)/conventional X 100.

For nutrients where there was adequate data, the Wilcoxon signed-rank test was used to identify significant differences in nutrient content as represented by the percent difference. Mean percent difference values were also calculated for each significant nutrient by study and by vegetable for the most frequently studied vegetables. The nutrient content of the daily vegetable intake was calculated for both an organic and conventional diet.

Results: Organic crops contained significanfly more vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus and significantly less nitrates than conventional crops. There were nonsignificant trends showing less protein but of a better quality and a higher content of nutritionally significant minerals with lower amounts of some heavy metals in organic crops compared to conventional ones.

Conclusions: There appear to be genuine differences in the nutrient content of organic and conventional crops


Organic foods are required in a number of alternative treatments, including several alternative cancer therapies. It is widely assumed that any benefit derived from organic foods is due to an absence of pesticide residues. However, prior to the widespread use of pesticides, those in the health care community who advocated organic foods claimed that these foods contained a better arrangement of nutrients as a result of the superior soil management and fertilisation practices used by organic farmers. As a corollary, they cautioned that food grown with chemical fertilizers caused deteriorating health in animals and humans.

Despite these warnings about the health effects of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, farmers abandoned the labor-intensive practices used in organic agriculture in favor of these easier to use chemicals. Prior to World War II, agricultural chemicals were virtually unused. But by 1995, more than 45 million tons of chemical fertilisers and 770 million pounds of synthetic pesticides were used in U.S. agriculture alone. Ninety-five percent (95%) of crops in the United States are now produced with chemical fertilizers and pesticides and producing crops using these chemicals has come to be known as conventional agriculture. There is evidence, however, that this major change in agricultural methods may not have been entirely benign from a nutritional point of vew. Coincident with the changes in agricultural practices, there have been recently identified changes in the nutrient composition of fresh fruits and vegetables. Four different analyses of U.S. and British nutrient content data have shown a decline in the vitamin and mineral content of fresh fruits and vegetables over the last 60 years. Average declines in nutrient content are shown in Table 1.

How does agriculture affect nutrient composition? Are agricultural chemicals responsible for the decrease in nutrient content? A number of studies over the last 75 years have addressed the question of whether agricultural chemicals and other agricultural methods including organic farming affect nutrient content. The question is still unresolved in part due to the large amount of variability in agricultural data resulting from uncontrollable factors such as rainfall and sunlight, which also influence nutrient content. In addition, few existing studies are exactly alike or even very similar as there are differences in crops grown, fertilization methods used, storage methods if any, etc. These factors can make it hard to interpret data from such studies in any conclusive manner.

Nevertheless, given the relevance of this issue to both alternative medicine and to the food supply in general, it is still useful to take a broad view of the existing data. In that light, the purpose of this study is to examine all of the available comparisons of crops grown organically with those produced conventionally, using computerized and statistical methods to identify differences and trends.


This analysis used all available studies that compared crops produced with organic fertilizer or by organic farming systems to crops produced with conventional fertilizers or farming systems. This analysis focused on fertilizers either alone or within farming systems because fertility management is historically the most fundamental difference between organic and conventional agriculture. Studies of produce from research plots and greenhouses, farm-gate produce, stored produce, and produce purchased at markets were all included. Because there are insufficient data from any one of these types of studies to draw meaningful conclusions, all of the data from the various types were used.

In all, 41 studies were included. Table 2 (see original paper) shows the 41 studies and the nutrients that were measured in each study. These 41 studies reported the results of 22 replicated field trials, 4 simple field trials, 4 greenhouse pot experiments, 4 market basket surveys, and 8 surveys of commercial farms or home growers. For 3 studies, detailed methodology was unavailable. In the majority of studies, data were collected over a time period of several years. All unique comparative data were extracted from these 41 studies for this analysis.

A single comparison consisted of a single nutrient in a single organic fruit, vegetable or cereal grain grown in one growing season compared to the same nutrient in the same conventionally grown crop grown in the same season, e.g., 0.30 mg of zinc in 100 g of organic cabbage compared to 0.25 mg in an equal amount of conventional cabbage, both grown in the summer of 1986. Some studies reported pooled comparisons that averaged the results for more than 1 year or more than one crop. These comparisons were included in the analysis when single comparisons were not available. All comparisons were used as reported.

A total of 1,297 comparisons were considered for analysis. Of this total, 57 comparisons came from 4 studies that did not report the numerical nutrient content measurements but instead made statements such as “the products of the conventional and organic plots did not differ in content” or otherwise presented the inf ormation in a nonnumeric way. Because the majority of these 57 comparisons indicated no difference in nutrient content, these comparisons were excluded from determinations of statistical significance and other computations. The remaining 1,240 comparisons were entered into a database for calculation, encompassing 35 vitamins and minerals as well as protein quality and quantity.

For each comparison, a percent difference was computed as follows:

Organic_Value — Conventional_Value

Conventional Value X 100.

These percent difference numbers indicate the percent more or less of a nutrient found in the organic crop as compared to the conventional crop. The percent difference was used to produce descriptive statistics and in tests of significance.

The statistical significance of the difference in nutrient content between organic and conventional crops was calculated for nutrients where there were adequate data. Most nutrients were measured in 3 or fewer studies and a small number of comparisons. The remaining 12 nutrients were measured in 8 or more studies with 39 or more comparisons: calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, iron, phosphorus, vitamin C, betacarotene, and nitrates. The statistical significance of the difference was computed for these 12 nutrients using the Wilcoxon signed-rank test (Kohler, 1988).

The vegetables in which each nutrient was measured are shown in Table 3. Five vegetables were more frequently studied than other crops: lettuce, spinach, carrot, potato, and cabbage. The mean percent difference was also calculated for significant nutrients for each of these five vegetables.

Table 3. The Twelve Most Studied Nutrients And The Vegetables In Which They Were Measured




Beetroot, cabbage, carrot, celeriac, kale, Leek, lettuce, pepper, potato, spinach, tomato, turnip, appic, pear, currant, corn, wheat


Cabbage, carrot, celeriac, leek, lentil, lettuce, pepper, potato, spinach, turnip, apple, pear, currant, barhv, brown rice, corn, wheat


Cabbage, carrot, celeriac, leek, lentil, lettuce, pepper, potato, spinach, tomato, turnip, apple, pear, curririt, barley, brown rice, corn, wheat


Beetroot, cabbage, carrot, celeriac, kale, leek, lettuce, pepper, potato, spinach, tomato, turnip, apple, pear, currant, corn, wheat


Cabbage, carrot, celeriac, leek, lettuce, pepper, potato, spinach, turnip, apple, pear, corn, wheat Phosphorus Beet root, cabbage, carrot, celeriac, kale, leek, lettuce, pepper, potato, spinach, tomato, turnip, apple, pear, currant, corn, wheat


Beet root, cabbage, carrot, celeriac, kale, leek, lettuce, pepper, potato, spinach, tomato, turnip, apple, pear, corn, wheat


Beet root, cabbage, carrot, kale, leek, lettuce, potato, spinach, tomato, turnip, apple, pear, corn, wheat


Cabbage, carrot, celeriac, lentil, lettuce, pepper, potato, spinach, tomato, apple, pear, barley, brown rice, corn, wheat


Beet leaf, carrot, lettuce, spinach, tomato, corn

Vitamin C

Brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrot, celeriac, corn salad, endive, kale, kohirabi, leek, lettuce, mangel, pepper, potato, snap beans, spinach, tomato, turnip, currant


Beetroot, cabbage, carrot, celeriac, chard, corn salad, endive, kale, leek, lettuce, potato, radish, spinach, turnip

The nutrient content of the vegetable portion of a daily menu was estimated for both an organic and a conventional diet. It was assumed that both diets met the current recommended dietary intake for vegetables and provided 5 servings of vegetables of the recommended size (U. S. Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, 1995): 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables and 1/2 cup of other vegetables. It was also assumed that the five most frequently studied vegetables, as listed above, were consumed.

U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient composition data were used to estimate the nutrient content of vegetables produced with agricultural chemicals because nearly all crops in the United States are produced with these chemicals. The amount of each nutrient in each organic vegetable was estimated, using the percent difference numbers calculated for vegetables in this analysis, as follows:

(USDA Nutrient Content Value) X 100 + Percent Difference


where the USDA value and percent difference are for the same nutrient and vegetable. The total amount of each nutrient in organic and conventional menus was calculated by summing the amounts in the five vegetables.

Data distribution plots were produced for nutrients where the difference in nutrient content was statistically significant. In order to produce a coherent visula display, average percent difference was calculated by study for these nutrients and these results were plotted for each of these frequently studied nutrients. Data were analyzed using SAS (SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC) and plots were produced using NCSS (NCSS Inc., Kaysville, UT).

Table 4 Nutrient content of organic versus conventional crops: mean percentage difference, level of significance, number of comparisons and number of studies for statistically significant nutrients.

Number of comparisons .


Mean % difference*

Level of significance

(p value)


Organic higher

Organic lower

No difference

No. of studies

Vitamin C



-100 to +507%








-73 to +240%








-35 to +1206%








-44 to +240%












*Plus and minus signs refer to conventional crops as the baseline for comparison. For example, vitamin C is 27% more abundant in the organic crop (conventional 100%, organic 127%).

+ A comparison consists of a single nutrient in a single organic crop grown in one season compared the same conventionally grown crop from the same season, for example 0.30mg of zinc in organic cabbage compared to 0.25mg of zinc in conventional cabbage, both grown in 1986.


This analysis was designed to answer several questions for each nutrient considered:

· Is there a difference in the nutrient content of organic crops and those grown with agricultural chemicals?

· How much of the time does the difference occur?

· How big is the difference?

These questions are representative of larger questions such as would a consumer encounter a difference often enough to be affected? And is the difference large enough to be biologically significant.

Of the 12 nutrients that were analysed statistically, 4 nutriewnts and 1 toxic substance were significantly different: vitamin C, iron, magnesium, phsphorus and nitrates. Table 4 shows the results for statistically significant nutrients including mean percent difference, level of significance, range of the data, the number of studies for each nutrient, and the number of comparisons where the organic crop had a higher, lower, or equal nutrient content compared to the conventional crop.

For each of the significant nutrients, the organic crops had a higher nutrient content in more than half of the comparisons. For the one toxic compound, nitrates, the organic crop had a lower content the majority of the time. This distribution of results is also evident when the results are compiled by study rather than by individual comparisons. Figure 1 shows the distribution of percent difference results by study for significant nutrients. As shown in Figure 1, most studies report a higher nutrient content or lower nitrate content in the organic crop.

The size of the difference was assessed by calculating a mean percent difference for the nutrient in question. As shown in Table 4, the organic crop has, on average, a higher content of the four significant nutrients and less of the toxic nitrates. For example, the vitamin C content of an organic fruit or vegetable is 27% more, on average, than a comparable conventionally grown fruit or vegetable. In other words, if an average conventional fruit or vegetable contained 100 mg of vitamin C, then a comparable organic one would contain 127 mg. Not too much should be made of the exact numerical differences shown in Table 4 because additional studies could influence the results a few percentage points either way. However, these percent difference numbers do indicate the direction and approximate magnitude of observed differences.

The mean percent difference by nutrient was also calculated for individual vegetables. Table 5 shows the results for the five most studied vegetables. Because there are fewer studies and a smaller number of comparisons for individual vegetables than there are for the whole data set, these results reflect more of the variability that is characteristic of agricultural data. Overall, the results for individual vegetables are similar to those for the entire data set shown in Table 4.

Fig. 1 Distribution of results for selected nutrients

TABLE 5. Differences In Nutritional Content Between Organic And Conventional Vegetables: Mean Percent Difference For Four Nutrients In Five Frequently Studied Vegetables


Vitamin C





























*Plus and minus signs refer to conventional crops as the baseline for comparison. For example, vitamin C is 17.0% more abundant in organic lettuce (conventional

100%, organic 117%).

Next, an attempt was made to quantify how these differences in nutrient content could affect a person’s daily nutrient intake. Estimates of the nutrient content of the vegetable portion a daily menu were made for both an organic and a conventional diet. It was assumed that the five most frequently studied vegetables were consumed: lettuce, cabbage, spinach, carrot and potato. Table 6 shows the quantity of iron, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin C in the vegetable portion of both organic and conventional menus.

Table 6. Nutrient Content Of An Organic And Conventional Diet: Milligrams Of Vitamin C, Iron, Magnesium, And Phosphorus In One Day’s Vegetable Intake


Vitamin C (mg)

Iron (mg)

Magnesium (mg)

Phosphorus (mg)











Finally, there are several nonsignificant trends in the data that are worthy of further investigation. First, there appears to be higher amounts of nutritionally significant minerals in organic compared to conventional crops. The organic crop had a higher mean mineral con-. tent for all 21 minerals considered in this analysis. Figure 2 shows the mean percent additional mineral content in organic crops by mineral for some of these minerals. In addition, there may be less of the toxic heavy metals in organic crops than in conventional crops. For all four heavy metals considered, the organic crop contained lower amounts of the heavy metals more often than comparable conventional crops. The number of comparisons where the organic crop had less and where the conventional crop had less were 7 and 5 for lead, 6 and 5 for cadmium, 3 and 2 for mercury, and 4 and 1 for aluminum.

Fig 2: Mean percent additional mineral content in organic compared to conventional crops


A further trend indicates that the quantity of protein may be less but the quality may be better in organic crops than in conventional crops. In all but one of the few measurements that were included in this analysis, the quantity of crude protein was lower in organic compared to conventional crops but the quality was better as measured by essential amino acid content. There is considerable support elsewhere for this difference in protein quantity and quality, some of which will be reviewed in the next section.


These results are in agreement with a review of predominantly German comparative literature conducted by the German government (Woese et al., 1995). The results for nitrates and protein quality and quantity agreed with the German review, which found a lower nitrate content in organic vegetables in nearly all cases, and less protein but higher quality protein in organic cereal grains. In addition, the results for vitamin C are similar to those of the German review. The Germans reported that half of the time the vitamin C content of organic and conventional crops was the same, and the other half of the time the vitamin C content was higher in the organic crop. These findings are consistent with a higher average vitamin C content in the organic crop as found in this analysis.

Further supporting evidence for the results of this analysis comes from the known effects of fertilizers and pesticides on soil ecology and plant metabolism. Before reviewing these eifects, it is helpful to know something about the differences in organic and conventional fertilizers and fertility management. In organic farming, a number of methods are used to maintain soil fertility. These include: (1) crop rotation, which ensures that one crop does not deplete the soil of the nutrients that it uses most; (2) cover crops to protect against soil erosion; (3) the planting of special crops known as “green manures” That are plowed back into the soil to enrich it; and (4) the addition of aged animal manures and plant wastes? also known as compost, to the soil. The distinguishing feature of these fertility management practices is the addition of organic matter to the soil, in the form of plant and animal wastes, to preserve the soil structure and provide food for soil microorganisms. With these methods, soil nutrients are released slowly over time.

In contrast, chemical fertilizers contain a few mineral substances, principally nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Sometimes trace minerals are also added. These fertilizers dissolve easily in the water that is present in soil. As a result, plants fertilized with chemical fertilizers are presen ted with large quantities of nutrients all at once, often in excess of their needs. Farmers who use chemical fertilizers control erosion of topsoil through methods such as no-till planting, where weed-killing pesticides are used in place of plowing to prepare a field for planting. With chemical fertilizers, there is no attempt to influence soil structure or to encourage soil microorganisms.

These differences in the management of soil fertility affect soil dynamics and plant metabolism, which result in differences in plant composition and nutritional quality. Soil that has been managed organically has more microorganisms. These microorganisms produce many compounds that help plants, including substances such as citrate and lactate that combine with soil minerals and make them more available to plant roots. For iron, in particular, this is especially important because many soils contain adequate iron but in an unavailable form. The presence of these microorganisms at least partially explains the trend showing a higher mineral content of organic food crops.

Nitrogen from any kind of fertilizer affects the amounts of vitamin C and nitrates as well as the quantity and quality of protein produced by plants. When a plant is presented with a lot of nitrogen, it increases protein production and reduces carbohydrate production. Because vitamin C is made from carbohydrates, the synthesis of vitamin C is reduced also. Moreover, the increased protein that is produced in response to high nitrogen levels contains lower amounts of certain essential amino acids such as lysine and consequently has a lower quality in terms of human and animal nutrition. If there is more nitrogen than the plant can handle through increased protein production, the excess is accumulated as nitrates and stored predominately in the green leafy part of the plant. Because organically managed soils generally present plants with lower amounts of nitrogen than chemically fertilized soils, it would be expected that organic crops would have more vitamin C, less nitrates and less protein but of a higher quality than comparable conventional crops.

Potassium fertilizer can reduce the magnesium content and indirectly the phosphorus content of at least some plants. When potassium is added to soil, the amount of magnesium absorbed by plants decreases. Because phosphorus absorption depends on magnesium, less phosphorus is absorbed as well. Potassium is presented to plants differently by organic and conventional systems. Conventional potassium fertilizers dissolve readily in soil water presenting plants with large quantities of potassium while organically managed soils hold moderate quantities of both potassium and magnesium in the root zone of the plant. Given the plant responses just described, it would be expected that the organic crops would contain larger amounts of magnesium and phosphorus than comparable conventional crops.

Several kinds of fertilizers contain toxic heavy metals that enter the soil and are absorbed by plants. Phosphate fertilizers often are contaminated by cadmium. Also, trace mineral fertilizers and liming materials derived from industrial waste can contain a number of heavy metals . These heavy metals build up in the soil when these fertilizers are used year after year. As the soil becomes more contaminated, the crops grown on these soils also become more contaminated. When chemical nitrogen fertilizers are added to these soils, plants may absorb even more toxic heavy metals. Organic farmers only rarely use trace mineral fertilizers and virtually never use fertilizers produced from industrial waste, which are the most contaminated. As a consequence, it might be expected that organic crops would contain lower amounts of toxic heavy metals, but more investigation is required to confirm this expectation.

Furthermore, it is reasonable to ask how the observed differences in nutrient content might affect a person’s nutrient intake and health. Estimates of the nutrient content of organic and conventional daily vegetable intake were made, and the organic vegetables had higher amounts of all nutrients shown. For vitamin C, in particular, five servings of the organic vegetables met the recommended daily intake of 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men whereas the same vegetables produced conventionally failed to do so. Considering that the recommended intake for vitamin C has been raised twice in the last 30 years, it is possible that the difference seen here could have significant effects on the public health.

However, the health effects that might accrue from these differences in nutrient content have not been assessed to any extent. Animal studies suggest that such functions as reproduction and resistance to infectlon might be adversely affected by conventionally produced foods as compared to organically produced ones. The one existing human study reported that the percentage of normal sperm increased as the percentage of organic food in men’s diets increased. Although preliminary, these findings are consistent with the results of the animal studies. Moreover, it should be noted that some of the animal studies included no pesticide usage at all so that the poorer outcome of the conventionally fed animals cannot be entirely attributed to pesticide residues. Soil factors appear to have an effect as well.

In summary, this analysis found more iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin C and less nitrates in organic crops as compared to conventional crops. In addition, there were several trends showing less protein but of a better quality, more nutritionally significant minerals, and lower amounts of some heavy metals in organic crops compared to conventional ones. More research is needed both to verify these findings and to discover relevant mechanisms in both plants and soil. As with all real-world data, there is considerable variability in agricultural measurements, making it necessary to collect and consider a lot of data in order to identify underlying patterns. Consequently, for most nutrients, there is a need for additional data collection before any further analysis is warranted. Finally, because the data collected to date suggest that there are real differences in nutrient content between organic and conventional crops, more research into the relative health effects is certainly in order.


I would like to thank Dr. Phil Shambaugh of Nutrikinetics, Washington
, D.C., for assistance with the data processing, and Dr. Kevin Forbes of the Department of Statistics, the Catholic University of America, Washington D.C., for advice on appropriate statistical analysis.

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