For most people, eating more fruit and vegetables is considered one of the best things they could do for their health. Even better if the food is organically produced; free from sprays and in its natural form.

Indeed, the organic food industry is booming, with revenue estimated at $655.3 million this financial year. Increasing health consciousness and concern for the environment are just two factors that have seen global demand for organic products skyrocket in recent years.

However for one group of consumers, organic food could be making them very sick. For this group of people eating organically produced fruit and vegetables may even result in migraines, itchy skin, irritable bowel symptoms and respiratory problems, including asthma.

The problem relates to the food chemical Salicylate, which acts as a natural pesticide for plants and helps to protect them against insects and diseases. The chemical is also used in some fragrances and medications, most commonly aspirin.

Salicylates occur at a higher level in organic produce, because these fruits and vegetables haven’t been sprayed and therefore create higher levels of their natural bug killers.

Anecdotal research suggests that a high number of people with sensitivity to salicylates are clueless regarding what could be affecting them. These people may feel sensitive to perfumes, or unwell when walking down the detergent aisle of a supermarket.

They could also have an adverse reaction when they eat certain foods such as citrus, berries or tomato sauce. For people who experience this intolerance, it may be beneficial to go on a low salicylate diet that doesn’t include organic foods.

While there is no long term evidence that synthetic pesticides are harmful, there is also no evidence that they are not. For this reason, it is advisable for people to reduce their exposure to these chemicals and pesticides. In my opinion, organic food also tastes better, which greatly increases the chance that people who can afford organic produce will increase their consumption of fruit and vegetables. As two thirds of Australians aren’t meeting the recommended five serves of vegetables per day, for most people this could only be a positive result.

However, people who are experiencing negative reactions like the symptoms explained may be experiencing salicylate intolerance and should consult with a dietitian. It is much better to treat the cause of their sensitivity, than just managing the symptoms. Under the guidance of an expert nutritionist, it may be possible for people with salicylate sensitivity to enjoy organic food again.

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  • Some with autoimmune diseases react badly to salicylates.
    I have read articles and comments written by people with Coeliac Disease that have salicylates intolerance, Some people suffer from migraines if they eat food containing it


  • There’s so much conflicting evidence of what’s good for you and what’s not, so many ‘experts’ it’s way too confusing


  • Wow, who would have thought something so healthy can cause such distress for some. You really have to be careful


  • Wow! Really interesting article! Thanks for sharing this!


  • Wow I didn’t realise that I figured if it was organic no one would have a problem with it.


  • i never realised that this could be affecting people. i know of a person who hates perfumes and the laundry aisle! just gets overwhelmed by the smell. i will pass this info on


  • Interesting – it just feels like there are so many things to consider when choosing food, it’s hard to keep up.


  • A good read thank you for sharing


  • After giving this some thought we decided that the ingestion of higher salicylates (?) is better than the ingestion of multiple chemical sprays.


  • You just can’t bloody trust anything to be good these days !! It’s awful !!


  • The very reason our family has switched to mainly organics is because of migraines! Sigh


  • interesting reading its hard to know whats good and whats not anymore


  • Really interesting piece. I’d never fought about this. You think you are eating better by choosing organic, but for some this may not be the best choice.


  • So interesting. It’s so hard these days trying to eat right and you can still hurt yourself. I grow some veggies which I guess is the safest way of knowing what you’re eating. Maybe I need to grow more !!


  • Very interesting read. Handy tips. Thank you


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