Study blames the decline on intensive farming
Food industry contests comparative methods
Thursday February 2, 2006
The mineral content of milk and popular meats has fallen significantly in the past 60 years, according to a new analysis of government records of the chemical composition of everyday food.
The research looked at government tables published in 1940, and again in 2002, in the nutritional bible, The Composition of Foods, to establish levels of important minerals in dairy products and meat before the second world war and today.
The research, which is contested by the food and farming industry, found a marked decline in nutritional value during the period. The analysis is published in this month’s Food magazine by the consumer watchdog the Food Commission.
The levels of iron recorded in the average rump steak have dropped by 55%, while magnesium fell by 7%. Looking at 15 different meat items, the analysis found that the iron content had fallen on average by 47%. The iron content of milk had dropped by more than 60%, and by more than 50% for cream and eight different cheeses. Milk appears to have lost 2% of its calcium, and 21% of its magnesium too.
Most cheeses showed a fall in magnesium and calcium levels. According to the analysis, cheddar provides 9% less calcium today, 38% less magnesium and 47% less iron, while parmesan shows the steepest drop in nutrients, with magnesium levels down by 70% and iron all gone compared with its content in the years up to 1940.
The reseach was conducted by David Thomas, a chiropractor and nutritionist who prescribes and sells mineral supplements. He published an earlier historical analysis of the nutrient content of fruit and vegetables in 2000 which showed a similar decline in those foods. He attributes the loss of nutrients to intensive farming and industrial production.
The following correction was printed in the Guardian’s Corrections and clarifications column, Friday February 3 2006
(The source of the data in the following artice was ommitted. It came from an analysis by David Thomas in the Food Magazine of figures in McCance and Widdowson’s, The Composition of Foods, 1940 and 2002 editions.)
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