Is organic baby food better for my baby?

Answers from Jay L. Hoecker, M.D.

Organic foods are produced without conventional pesticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics or growth hormones. Feeding your baby organic baby food might limit his or her exposure to these substances.

Conventional growers use pesticides to protect their crops from molds, insects and diseases. When farmers spray pesticides, this can leave residue on produce. Organic produce carries significantly fewer pesticide residues than does conventional produce.

Some people might buy organic baby food to limit their babies' exposure to these residues — since infants might be more susceptible to harm potentially caused by pesticides than are adults. However, residues on most products — both organic and nonorganic — don't exceed government safety thresholds.

Generally, research hasn't shown organic foods to be more nutritious than nonorganic foods. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides organic seals for products that contain various percentages of organic ingredients — but the USDA makes no claims or guarantees that organic foods are safer or more nutritious than are nonorganic foods.

Some parents prefer organic baby food because it's environmentally friendly. Others feel that organic baby food simply tastes better. What's most important, however, is a balanced diet. Offering your child healthy foods from the beginning — whether they're organic or not — will set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating.

Nov. 20, 2012