Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers choosing organic or long-life milk could be unwittingly putting their babies’ health at risk, an expert warned yesterday.
New research from the University of Reading found that milk certified as organic, or UHT milk, was a third lower in iodine than conventionally produced milk. Iodine plays a key role in babies’ brain development, particularly in the early stages of pregnancy, and studies have shown that children born to mothers low in iodine may have lower IQ, reading and spelling scores.
Ian Givens, who led the research, published online in the journalFood Chemistry, said: “Iodine deficiency ought to be a health problem from the past. But unless this situation is carefully monitored, we risk sleepwalking into a new health crisis in the 21st century.”
In the 1930s and 1940s, iodine deficiency was common in the UK until dairy cows were given iodine supplements. Professor Givens said, however, that there was no need to switch away from organic or UHT milk — simply to adjust consumption accordingly.
“To get the same amount of iodine as in a pint of conventional pasteurised milk, you would need to drink around an extra half-pint,” he said.
Peter Melchett, policy director at the Soil Association, said anyone switching from organic milk risked losing “substantial health benefits” in other areas.