The Soil Association has branded a new study claiming mothers could put their babies at risk by switching to organic milk as ‘pure scaremongering’.
The study, conducted by Reading University, found that organic winter milk was up to 32.2% lower in iodine than conventional milk, while UHT was 30% lower. A previous study on summer milk had similar findings.
Researchers from Reading’s Food Production and Quality division warned the low levels of iodine in organic milk could have “serious” implications for public health.
Switching to organic could be particularly risky for pregnant woman, because iodine is crucial for the brain development of babies in the early stages of pregnancy, they claimed.
The study was widely reported by the national media, which warned that organic millk could put unborn babies at risk and harm children’s IQ.
However, Soil Association chief executive Helen Browning claimed the study had jumped to unfounded conclusions, pointing out the researchers had only measured iodine levels in organic milk.
“The study does not include measures of iodine levels in individuals who consumed organic milk or IQ for babies whose mothers did,” she said. “Therefore there is no evidence to show mothers consuming organic milk have lower iodine levels.”
She accused the researchers of being “incredibly irresponsible” and urged mothers not to avoid organic milk. “Pregnancy can be a naturally a worrying time and researchers should be absolutely certain of any information they share,” she said.
Meanwhile, Dairy UK chief executive Dr Judith Bryans pointed out that the study, which was conducted in August 2014, did not reflect the current situation with organic milk.
Historically, organic cows did not receive iodine in feed, but at the end of 2014 the industry resumed the practice of enriching feed with iodine and “recent testing carried out in January 2015 on a representative number of milk samples found no significant difference in iodine levels between organic and conventional milk,” she said.