"This is the first example of a definite health impact of organic food consumption being published in a peer-reviewed journal," said Carlo Leifert of Newcastle University, who is leading a study into the connection between organic food consumption and health.
Researchers followed 2,500 pregnant women until their children were two years old, recording information on their health and their lifestyle and dietary habits. They found that the rate of allergies was 36 percent lower among children who drank or ate organic milk, cheese and yogurt and whose mothers had consumed these products while breastfeeding than among children and mothers who had eaten either only non-organic dairy products or a mix of organic and non-organic products.
"There was a clear relationship between organic dairy use and less eczema," said researcher Machteld Huber. "The difference was significant but only for children exclusively eating organic dairy products."
"We didn't find a relationship if they had [both] organic and conventional dairy products."
Researchers do not know whether the increased allergy risk from non-organic dairy is caused by extra toxic ingredients, such as antibiotics, by lower levels of key nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, by some combination of the two, or by some other factor.
"Organic milk doesn't contain any pesticides, added hormones or antibiotics," said Stuart Martin of the Scottish Organic Milk Producers Association. "When an organic cow becomes sick our farmers are encouraged to treat it homeopathically first and only use antibiotics as a last resort. Meanwhile, the milk from that cow is removed from the milk stream and is not used at all."