"KNOW your onions!" That's the message from Dorset Trading Standards as they check out the authenticity of organic food.

Concern that some suppliers could be wrongly using the word "organic" to advertise products has prompted a widespread investigation and analysis of food.

Samples are being sent to an analyst who checks for pesticides, additives and other ingredients that shouldn't be present.

Ivan Hancock, divisional trading standards manager, said: "Unlike other areas when you can tell if things aren't what they should be, in the case of organic food the consumer is unable to tell if something is not right.

"There's a reliance on trust and it's important for us to check out claims being made.

"When we put together our food sampling programme we started to concentrate on organic food and took several food samples (around 125) to carry out formal checks on the descriptions being used.

"We also carry out checks on the history of a product to ensure that the origin of food claiming to be from Dorset isn't from another area."

Farmers' markets and farmers selling produce direct from their farms are among those co-operating with the study.

Mr Hancock said the high premium charged for organic food and marketability of it in an area such as Dorset gave extra appeal to claiming organic status.

He added: "There's the possibility that claiming to be organic is financially worthwhile."

And though as yet they've come across no such false claims in Dorset, Ivan warned: "Consumers need to be wary. There may be some rogues in this area although we believe the majority of producers to be trustworthy."

He advises locals to buy from organic projects that are part of accredited schemes (particularly those bearing the Direct From Dorset logo) and explained: "That should give some degree of reassurance because they are more likely to have been checked out.

"I guess our project title could be something like Know your Onions!"

First published: August 23