At present, the Food Standards Agency does not recognise any nutritional difference between organic and conventional milk, effectively stopping the organic industry from capitalising on research that suggests organic milk is better for you.
Now a group of scientists at Liverpool and Glasgow Universities has written to the FSA asking it to rethink its position in the light of new findings. They have asked the agency's chair, Deidre Hutton, to look at formal recognition of the nutritional differences.
The research led by Dr Kathryn Ellis looked at the link between organic farming and Omega-3 levels in milk, and found that organic milk contained 68% more total Omega-3 fatty acids than non-organic milk, mainly in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Ellis' team concluded that the higher levels of ALA in organic milk were in part due to cows' higher clover diets. The FSA has said it will examine the claims. Meanwhile, the Organic Milk Suppliers' Co-operative is poised to capitalise on the study by launching a consumer education programme and product labelling to communicate the benefits of Omega-3. "If the FSA gives the go-ahead, then it would be fantastic for organic milk," said Rosie Palmer, OMSCO's marketing manager.
But Dairy Crest said the amount of Omega-3 found in organic milk was still eclipsed by the levels found in milk that is deliberately Omega-3 enriched, such as its St Ivel Advance and Marks and Spencer's own brand product.
Organic milk contains 46mg of Omega-3, compared with 26mg for conventional, but every litre of Advance whole milk contains 450mg, while M&S milk has 190mg added.