Babies consume up to four times more fruits and vegetables per pound of body weight than do adults, so their exposure to commonly-used pesticides may be considerably higher. That’s why parents who don’t eat organic foods themselves buy it for their young ones. Photo by Krista Davis.
My name is Stephanie Zonis, and welcome to Organic Matter for March, 2006.
Organic foods are one of the fastest-growing sectors of all grocery categories. But according to A.C. Nielsen, a marketing information company, sales of organic baby food in the U.S. in 2005 showed double the growth of organic foods overall, an increase of some 18% over the previous year. While American caretakers still buy far less organic baby food than their European counterparts, demand for organic baby food in the U.S. has risen sharply in recent years, and that demand continues to grow. But, like all organic food, organic baby food is more expensive than that produced conventionally. Is the extra cost worth it?
An increasing number of people seem to think it is. In a household that already purchases organic foods, babies and young children are, of course, likely to be fed organic foods. But there are a significant number of parents, at least in the U.S., who feed babies organic foods, but are not themselves organic consumers. It is understood that babies have sensitive and developing systems and organs all through their bodies, but what’s not known is the effect that synthetic pesticide and fertilizer residues and GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) might have on a baby’s future health.
How Important Is Pesticide-Free Food?
Clearly, some parents are not taking any chances. Natural Grocery Buyer, in a 2003 article, notes that babies consume up to four times more fruits and vegetables per pound of body weight than do adults, so their exposure to commonly-used pesticides may be considerably higher. Pediatrician Alan Greene notes that infants are especially subject to developmental damage from chemicals used in farming due to their smaller size, swift metabolisms, and less-varied diets. Even the often-conservative magazine Consumer Reports recently recommended purchasing organic baby food over that conventionally produced. And several studies published by the University of Washington determined that an organic diet, even for a few days, drastically reduced the level of some pesticide types in the urine of children taking part in the study.
But there are those who maintain that organic baby food is an unnecessary expense at a time when parents may already be having to tighten their financial belts. Some people see it as just another attempt to squeeze more money out of well-meaning but gullible consumers. In 1996, Congress passed the Food Quality Protection Act, which requires all pesticides to be safe for infants and children. Levels of pesticides, fertilizers, etc. in conventionally-produced foods are tightly regulated by the federal government, and the quantities permitted are minute; nay-sayers of organics believe that this is more than sufficient to protect the health of young children. And unfortunately, toxins other than pesticide residues and GMO’s exist all around us.
A 2004 article in Scotsman (a U.K. publication) showed results of toxin testing conducted by the Food Standards Agency (also in the U.K.) on organic and non-organic baby foods. The FSA, a watchdog group, bought 124 samples of different brands of baby food and tested all for PCB’s and dioxins, both man-made pollutants in the environment.
Organic baby food proved no more free of these toxins than did conventionally-produced baby food. In fact, three of four products with the highest levels of these toxins were organic, while all of the ten foods with the lowest toxin readings had been conventionally produced.
It’s worth noting that all products contained levels of PCB’s and dioxins safely within regulated standards, but just because a food doesn’t contain pesticide or fertilizer residues or GMO’s, that doesn’t mean that the food is squeaky clean, as it were.
Is There An Answer?
So what do you do if you’re a new mom or an expectant mother? You do your own research. Talk to your doctors to see what they recommend. If you trust a website, scan the site’s pages to see if you can find information on this topic. Parenting, alas, doesn’t come with any manuals, and it isn’t a certainty that anyone has the right answer here. If you do decide to buy organic baby food, several of the producing companies in the U.S. are listed below, in alphabetical order. I can make no particular recommendations, as I have tried none of them.
Organic products will carry a USDA-Certified seal or the seal or another organic certifying authority.
Simply Natural Baby Food: Easy Recipes for Delicious Meals Your Infant and Toddler Will Love, by Cathe Olson. In an era of epidemic obesity and diabetes in children, Olson offers wholesome and simple recipe ideas for a healthy start. $9.97. Click here for more information.
Blender Baby Food: Over 125 Recipes For Healthy Homemade Meals, by Nicole Young. Making nutritious, homemade baby food has never been so easy. $12.32. Click here for more information.
Baby Food, by Saxton Freymann, Joost Elffers. Freymann and Elffers—the creators of How Are You Peeling?, Dog Food, and more—are back, this time constructing baby animals out of fruits and vegetables. $2.49. Click here for more information.
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