Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Characteristics associated with organic food consumption during pregnancy; data from a large cohort of pregnant women in Norway

Hanne Torjusen12*, Anne Lise Brantsæter1, Margaretha Haugen1, Geir Lieblein3, Hein Stigum4, Gun Roos2, Gerd Holmboe-Ottesen5 and Helle Margrete Meltzer1

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Environmental Medicine, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway

2 National Institute for Consumer Research (SIFO), Oslo, Norway

3 Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway

4 Division of Epidemiology, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway

5 Department of General Practice and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:775  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-775

Published: 21 December 2010



Little is known about the use of organic food during pregnancy. The aim of this study was to describe characteristics associated with the use of organic food among pregnant women participating in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa).


The present study includes 63,561 women who during the years 2002-2007 answered two questionnaires, a general health questionnaire at gestational week 15 and a food frequency questionnaire at weeks 17-22. We used linear binomial regression with frequent versus rare use of organic food as outcome variable and characteristics of the respondent as independent variables. The outcome variable was derived from self-reported frequency of organic food use in six main food groups (milk/dairy, bread/cereal, eggs, vegetables, fruit and meat).


Organic eggs and vegetables were the food items which were most frequently reported to be used "often" or "mostly". The proportion of women reporting frequent intake of organic food was 9.1% (n = 5754). This group included more women in the lower (<25 years) and higher (>40 years) age-groups, with normal or low body mass index, who were vegetarians, exercised regularly (3+times weekly), consumed alcohol and smoked cigarettes during pregnancy (p < 0.001 for all, except alcohol: p=0.044). Further, participants with frequent organic consumption included more women in the lower (≤12 years) or higher (17 years +) category of educational attainment, women who were students or had a partner being a student, who belonged to the lowest household income group (both respondent and her partner earned <300 000 NOK), who entered the study 2005-2007, and who lived in an urban area (p < 0.001 for all).


The socio-economic characteristics of pregnant Norwegian women with frequent organic consumption did not unambiguously follow those typically associated with better health, such as higher levels of education and income. Rather, lower household income, and both lowest and highest levels of education were associated with a higher prevalence of frequent organic consumption. The results indicate that personal and socio-economic characteristics are important covariates and need to be included in future studies of potential health outcomes related to organic food consumption during pregnancy.