Soil Association (SA) bosses have hit back at a report that states consumers harbour key misconceptions about organic produce.

A Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association Group (CCFRA) study stated that consumers did not equate the fewer pesticides used in organic production with lower yields and thus higher prices, indeed many consumers said that 'value for money' was not a reason for their buying organic food.

The survey found that purchasers of organic food believed it to taste better, but the document stated there was little evidence to support this claim.

It claimed expectations of organic food rather than the reality can significantly help boost taste ratings, citing a 1976 Schultz and Lorenz study which showed that food labelled organic would receive better appraisals.

Hayley Newsholme, who wrote the report, suggested that the consumer was in many cases ignorant of what organic food did and did not offer.

She said: 'There are quite a few misconceptions... Even people who don't buy organic think it is better, but there is no evidence to support that it is.

'They [the organic movement] build on what people believe.' She added that based on the current evidence, buying organic should be an environmental rather than a health choice.

She said: 'It is better for the environment. Organic is about the method of production, not the product.' However Newsholme accepted that her study was not the only organics report ever to surface. In fact, it is the latest instalment in an epic battle of claim and counter-claim.

Newsholme said: 'There are conflicting reports. Some by the SA say that organics are better, [as they are produced] without [synthetic] pesticides. But it's not easy to prove the specific health benefits of organic products. Long term trials would be needed to confirm their beneficial effects.' But despite the report's findings the SA's Sue Flook said that there was solid evidence in her organisation's favour.

She said: 'Two lots of research have shown that there are health benefits to organic food.' She cited Shane Heaton's Organic Food Farming report, which was published by the SA.

She also pointed to US research by Virginia Washington that backed the organic lobby's claims.

She said: 'In 41 studies around the world she found that in organic food there were statistically significant higher levels of vitamin C, magnesium, iron and higher levels of phosphorous.' Flook added that only last week Dr John Patterson of Dumfries & Galloway Royal Infirmary had looked at conventional and organic vegetable soups, and discovered the organic version contained six times the salicylic acid of the conventional equivalent.

The acid is useful in combating heart disease and bowel cancer.

She said: 'Dr Patterson is not an advocate of organic food – he has said that – but he found that the findings were worth publishing.' Flook, who said she also wanted to see more research, also claimed that there were further benefits to eating organic.

She said: 'There are other advantages to organic foods at the processing level – we do not allow additives that can cause depression or hyperactivity, nor do we allow hydrogenated fat.' Asked whether she welcomed Newsholme's comments that organic food was a green rather than a health choice, Flook said: 'It's good that she [Newsholme] recognises that there are large environmental benefits of organic food and farming.'