Food is getting healthier and better, thanks to EU research

Research results showcased in Brussels today demonstrate how research is helping to make our food healthier and of better quality. New research shows that organically produced food has a higher nutritional value than conventional. Although the health benefits of fish and seafood due to omega-3 are well-known, another project has discovered that there are other important health-giving components in these foods. Researchers have also been looking at improving the welfare of farm animals, not only because consumers are demanding higher standards of welfare, but also because good conditions can significantly improve the quality of our food. All these projects have been funded by the EU’s Sixth Research Framework Programme and will be presented with other research results at a conference in Brussels today.

“Food quality and safety are major concerns for European citizens and it is great to see relevant new results coming out of EU-funded research” said European Science and Research Commissioner Janez Poto?nik. “Basing decisions about food on scientific evidence benefits consumers. Measures proposed by researchers from EU projects have been tested for validity and reliability and can be used on farms and in food production.”

3 examples of projects outlined at today’s conference are:

Organic milk is high in omega-3 acids, antioxidants and vitamins

Until recently there has been little scientific knowledge about the effect of agricultural production systems on food. Research now shows that organically-produced food has a higher nutritional value than food produced by conventional methods. One study compared organic and conventional milk and found that levels of beneficial fatty acids like omega-3 were 60% higher in organic milk and it had 20% more antioxidants and vitamins.

More fish=better health

The beneficial presence of omega 3 fatty acids in fish and seafood has been demonstrated by EU funded research. It has been found in this project that white fish can have an important anti-inflammatory effect in preventing colon and intestinal cancers which are quite common in European populations. It has also been clearly demonstrated that fish diets, especially cod, are essential in weight loss programmes and that fish diets increase the antioxidant potential of the blood reinforcing anticancer benefits. Further studies on the role of fish in cardiac disease, depression, and osteoporosis, are being continued.

Happy animals mean good food

European consumers are becoming more and more concerned not just about the quality of the end product, but also the welfare of the animals from which their food is produced. So the EU is supporting research looking at:

  • Good feeding practices, making sure the animals are fed and watered properly
  • Good housing, with an appropriate level of comfort and freedom of movement
  • Good health, meaning reducing disease, injuries and pain
  • Appropriate behaviour, in terms of other animals, humans and an absence of fear.

A code of good practice for livestock breeding, which is also concerned with delivering high standards of animal health and welfare was launched in March of this year.

For more information on these (and other) projects, see MEMO/06/479 and

Code of conduct for livestock breeding: IP/06/257