Organic produce is selling at a faster rate in the UK than anywhere else in Europe, according to new research from the London-based Datamonitor. At this rate, UK consumers are likely to spend close to £3bn on organics by 2005, overtaking the current biggest spender Germany with a per capita annual expenditure of US$69.5.  

Food scares surrounding meat production, with BSE and foot and mouth, and concerns over genetically modified crops are fuelling the growth in popularity of organic food, according to Datamonitor. The sales have been prompted by a growing interest in healthy eating, which has meant that consumers are willing to pay more for food to guarantee quality.

"Consumer confidence in food production methods has been eroded and a demand for improved food safety checks has arisen. Organic values will increasingly make their way into the non-organic supply chain and force food manufacturers to refocus on safety, as opposed to quantity and price," revealed Datamonitor.

Other analysts believe however that as long as prices stay higher for organic food, it will never outsell food farmed using more conventional methods. Also, the introduction of new schemes to guarantee food traceability is expected to curb the growth of organic sales.

Britain's market for organic food is currently the third largest in Europe behind Germany and France.