To Buy or Not to Buy: Organic Baby Foods

“Should I feed only organic foods to my baby?” It’s a question I hear several times a day, and according to a recent report, parents across the globe are asking the same question.

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This week, the ACNielsen marketing information company reported that yearly sales of organic baby food have increased 18%, doubling the previous year’s growth in this market. Parents all over the world are realizing that it’s not just the food they feed their infants, but what else is on or in the food, that affects their children’s health. The main concern centers on pesticide residue on fruits and vegetables. The U.S. EPA notes that children are especially susceptible to health effects of pesticides.

How effectively does eating organic foods reduce our risk of pesticide exposure? A recently published study by Dr. Chensheng “Alex” Lu of Emory University demonstrated that feeding children organic food for as little as 5 days greatly reduces levels of pesticides in their bodies.

From the press release:

“Immediately after substituting organic food items for the children’s normal diets, the concentration of the organophosphorus pesticides found in their bodies decreased substantially to non-detectable levels until the conventional diets were re-introduced,” says Dr. Lu, an assistant professor in the department of environmental and occupational health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University. During the days when children consumed organic diets, most of their urine samples contained zero concentration for the malathion metabolite. However, once the children returned to their conventional diets, the average malathion metabolite concentration increased to 1.6 parts per billion with a concentration range from 5 to 263 parts per billion, Dr. Lu explains.

How do parents decide which foods, if not all, they purchase should be organic? Some are concerned about the higher price of organics. The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit research organization, publishes a handy wallet-sized shoppers’ guide to which fruits and vegetables are highest in pesticides, and therefore best to buy if you’re on a budget.

So, to answer the question: To Buy or Not to Buy? In an ideal world, we’d eat only organically-grown foods, as the health benefits seem obvious at this point. Once supply and access increases, we should see prices settle to somewhere reasonably close to “conventional” foods. Until then, if you’re concerned about affordability, prioritize your organic purchases, focusing on produce and dairy products. Happy eating!

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