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Organic Food - Kids and Organic Food

Child Nutrition Basics

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Updated March 21, 2008

Parents can buy everything from organic fruits and vegetables and organic beef to organic baby food.

Although you can buy everything from organic fruits and vegetables and organic beef to organic baby food, right now it is up to you whether or not it is really a good idea.

Photo: Mario Tama / Getty Images

Parents who are worried about the possible presence of pesticides, antibiotics, and even growth hormone in the foods that their kids eat have been turning to organic food for their family.

Should your kids be eating organic food?

Is organic food safer or healthier for your kids?

Organic Food

Organic food definitely seems like it should be better for your kids. After all, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):

  • organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.
  • organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.

Most people would likely want food that was not associated with words like sewage sludge, radiation, and growth hormones when the food was grown and processed.

The main issue with organic food is that although the USDA can certify which food is organic, it "makes no claims that organically produced food is safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced food."

Organic food is more expensive though, which can be a big issue for many parents, especially if there is no other advantage to eating organic food besides some peace of mind. In fact, organic food often costs 50% to 100% more than similar brands of conventionally grown food.

Buying Organic Food

If you do choose to buy organic food, try to be sure that you are really getting organic food.

One way make sure that you are really buying organic food is to look for the USDA Organic seal on any organic food that you buy. That seal means that the food is at least 95% organic and that a USDA-approved certifier has inspected the farm where the organic food is grown or raised to make sure that the farmer is following organic rules. Unfortunately, according to a Dallas Morning News report, the USDA National Organic Program has a small staff and doesn't seem to always enforce their rules. Also, a lot of organic food is grown overseas, even in China, where there may be even less rule enforcement.

Other organic foods may not have the seal, so you are simply relying on their word that they are really organic.

And even when you buy organic food, unless it is labeled 100% organic, up to 5% of the ingredients can be synthetic or may not be organic.

Keep in mind that organic food is a big business and is not usually about buying from a local small farm any more. In fact, many smaller organic food companies, such as Horizon Organic Milk, Earth's Best Baby Food, Odwalla, Westsoy, and Kashi, have been bought out by large multinational food companies, including Dean Foods, Heinz, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Kellogg's, and General Mills.

Becoming a big business has unfortunately meant that some organic foods and their ingredients are in short supply, and some unscrupulous people are cheating the organic rules. Many experts feel that big business and organic farming may not mix.

Most organic food is likely really organic, but that question of whether or not what you are getting and spending more money for is really organic and the fact that even the USDA says that organic food isn't safer or more nutritious, leaves many people to buy conventionally grown food for their kids.

Organic food is an option for those parents that want it though, and you may even choose to buy certain foods as organic and others as conventionally grown. Consumer Reports, for example, states that "It's worth paying more for organic apples, peaches, spinach, milk, and beef to avoid chemicals found in the conventionally produced versions of those items."

Your best bet to make sure you are buying organic may be to grow your own or buy from a local farm, which you can find by searching at Local Harvest or by visiting your local farmer's market.

Types of Organic Food

You can buy almost all foods in organic varieties these days, and it usually doesn't mean a trip to a health food store anymore. Many grocery stores now carry a variety of organic foods, including:

Once you start looking, you will also find organic snacks, coffee, breakfast cereals, and even candy.

Right now it is up to you whether or not it is really a good idea to buy them.



Sources:

United States Department of Agriculture. Organic Food Standards and Labels: The Facts.

Organic food: buying more safety or just peace of mind? A critical review of the literature. Magkos F - Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr - 01-JAN-2006; 46(1): 23-56.

Natural might not be healthier. Dixon B - Lancet Infect Dis - 01-DEC-2001; 1(5): 360.

Dallas Morning News. Paula Lavigne. Analysis: USDA does not always enforce organic label standards. 25-JUL-06.

Consumer Reports. When it pays to buy organic. February 2006.

Business Week. The Organic Myth. October 16, 2006.

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