1. Beal, Judy A. DNSc, RN, FNAP, FAAN

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As we well know, today's parent relies heavily on information gleaned from the Internet. In a quick Google search about the benefits of organic baby food, the majority of sites that appeared were nonprofessional advice columns, blogs, and magazines that cater to new parents. Three articles, one each from the Washington Post (2013), the March of Dimes (2008), and the MayoClinic (Hoecker, 2012) presented less biased and more measured professional information about organic baby food. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) (Forman, Silverstein, Committee on Nutrition, Council on Environmental Health, & AAP, 2012) clinical report on the topic did not appear except in one instance in a blog that referred to the AAP stance as "wishy-washy" (Saynisch, 2012). The author states, "In talking with my mom friends, most dismissed the Pediatrics report and the AAP Guidelines entirely, saying that they were going to go with their 'gut' feeling about whether or not to give their kids organic foods- essentially, that they would practice the precautionary principle until there was unequivocal evidence that ingestion of pesticides, growth hormones, and other mechanisms are safe for kids." (Saynisch, 2012). The author concluded that the predominant consumer belief is that organic baby food is best, while acknowledging that buying organic food is easier to do if you are a parent of some financial means.


The AAP (Forman et al., 2012) concluded that "current evidence does not support any meaningful nutritional benefits or deficits from eating organic compared to conventionally grown foods" (p. e1406). The clinical report does an excellent job at defining the various marketing terms of the word "organic" as well as discussing the limited regulation of organic-related foods. It clarifies that organic foods must include 70% to 100% organically produced ingredients (dependent upon labels that include 100% organic, organic, made with organic ingredients, natural, etc.). This definition further translates to no synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer, genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, or antibiotic or growth hormone use in life-stock. Although organic foods are produced without or limited pesticides, there is no definitive evidence that reduction in pesticide residue is actually clinically relevant long term. The AAP describes the positive environmental impact and production efficiency of organic farming and highlights the significant higher (40%) cost to consumers. They speak clearly to the growth in the organic food market and as far back as 2008, more than two-thirds of American consumers bought organic food products on a regular basis and the majority of consumers firmly believe that organic foods are safer and more nutritious than conventional produce, in spite of the fact that the research to date simply does not demonstrate this causal relationship. The majority of studies to date have not been well-designed and are seriously flawed.


So what should a pediatric nurse say to an anxious, well-meaning, and concerned parent who wants to feed his or her baby the healthiest food possible? Feeding organically may feel more comfortable and safer for parents for whom cost is not an issue. For others, AAP recommends that pediatric providers: (1) review the key facts presented in their clinical report highlighting lack of definitive evidence that organic foods are safer; (2) discuss the nutritional, environmental, and cost impact of feeding organic; and (3) encourage feeding infants and children a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (Forman et al., 2012). Until larger prospective cohort studies with adequate sample sizes and controls are successful in measuring environmental exposures and nutritional impact, parents can feel assured that conventionally produced foods are safe and nutritionally balanced.




Forman J., Silverstein J.Committee on Nutrition, Council on Environmental Health, & American Academy of Pediatrics. (2012). Organic foods: Health and environmental advantages and disadvantages. Pediatrics, 130(5), e1406-e1415. doi:10.1542/peds.2012-2579 [Context Link]


Hoecker J. L. (2012). Organic baby food: Better for baby? Retrieved from[Context Link]


March of Dimes. (2008). Organic Foods: Are they better for baby? Retrieved from[Context Link]


Saynisch M. (2012). Should baby eat organic? American Academy of Pediatrics wades into the debate. Retrieved from[Context Link]


Washington Post. (2013). Organic baby food: It's more expensive but it may not be more nutritious. Retrieved from[Context Link]