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Updating the knowledge base on organic food quality and processing

Research project surveys the current state of knowledge on all aspects of organic food quality and processing, and highlights knowledge gaps.

(Frankfurt, 16.05.2012) The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, Germany (FiBL) worked with a team of international experts to analyse the current state of knowledge. The survey was based on interviews with knowledgeable insiders and a detailed desk study of the literature. Addressing the quality aspect, the project examined the thematic clusters of nutrition, sensorics and traceability. For the area of processing, researchers began by interviewing experts in the field to establish the themes of most pressing interest to the organic food trade. These include raw materials/storage and technologies for diverse product groups, such as cereals, milk, and fruit and vegetables. Other focal points were packaging and sustainable practices by companies.

From these interviews the experts identified current issues and trends. They found a considerable need for research and development and for knowledge transfer to practitioners. For example, as yet there are no hard and fast rules defining low-impact, sustainable processing of organic products. Naturally companies may only process organic ingredients and must have this verified by inspectors. Some technologies, such as irradiation with ionising rays, are completely prohibited, but otherwise large parts of the organic sector lack a clear and uniform definition of what precisely is meant by sustainable practices. Yet this is an important foundation for the continuing development of a sustainable and ecologically responsible food industry.

Short and accessible reports were compiled on each thematic cluster to give a rapid and evidence-based survey of the current state of knowledge and any gaps in knowledge. The final report was published in German and English, and can be obtained via FiBL.

The project team consisted of scientists from FiBL Germany and FiBL Switzerland, from the organic consultancy Büro für Lebensmittelkunde, from the biodynamic research unit Forschungsring für Biologisch-Dynamische Wirtschaftsweise e.V. and from the University of Kassel’s Department of Organic Food Quality and Food Culture. Financial support for the research project came from the German federal scheme for organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture.

The 150-page final report “Analysis of the Current State of Knowledge of the Processing and Quality of Organic Food, and of Consumer Protection” is available for purchase priced at EUR 32.00 plus postage. The final report is also available as a free download.

Further information


Boris Liebl (FiBL Germany)

The report

  • Alexander Beck, Nicolaas Busscher, Franziska Espig, Uwe Geier, Yvonne Henkel, Ann-Sofie Henryson, Johannes Kahl, Ursula Kretzschmar, Rolf Mäder, Tabea Meischner, Kathrin Seidel, Annette Weber, Axel Wirz
    (Hrsg.) Alexander Beck, Johannes Kahl and Boris Liebl
  • Analysis of the Current State of Knowledge of the Processing and Quality of Organic Food, and of Consumer Protection



Press release