Fewer adults think organic food is safer

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The Independent Online

Consumers are becoming sceptical about the benefits of buying organic food, market analysts believe.

Sales of organic produce have soared in recent years and are predicted to total £1.2bn by the end of the year. But the consumer research group Mintel says growing cynicism about how much better organic food is for both the environment and people's health could limit future growth.

Industry figures show the market for organic food and drink grew by 35 per cent in the past year and is now worth £980m. Even taking into account the expected rise in sales through the coming year, however, the sector will account for only 1.5 per cent of total food and drink purchases for the home.

A survey of 1,000 adults by Mintel shows a drop over the past two years in the numbers who thought organic products were safer than the standard equivalent. In 1999, 22 per cent of people said organic was safer, but that figure fell to 18 per cent in 2001.

James McCoy, senior consultant analyst at Mintel, said: "Such responses suggest that not all consumers view organic foods as a panacea to their concerns about food."

Cynicism was particularly evident among young people, with 11 per cent of those surveyed last year aged 15 to 24 believing organic produce is better for you, compared with 20 per cent in 1999.

The poll revealed consumers in Scotland had the strongest belief in the health benefits of organic food. A fifth of Scots said it was better for them, up by 8 per cent on two years ago. Just 10 per cent of those living in London thought the same.

Mr McCoy said organic foods would remain popular with a core number of consumers opposed to over-production and the use of pesticides.

The supermarket chain Tesco announced in November last year it had set a target to grow its organic market to £1bn within five years by introducing hundreds of new products.

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