Despite its high cost, many parents buy organic meat, produce and milk for their kids, convinced that food grown without pesticides is best. But a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) concludes it’s more important that children need to eat a wide variety of produce, whether organic or conventional. After an extensive analysis of scientific evidence regarding organic dairy products, produce, and meat, the AAP says that there is currently no direct evidence that eating an all-organic diet leads to better health or a lower risk of disease. But the organization also says that no large studies have been done to directly address the issue.
According to the AAP, while organic foods contain the same vitamins, minerals, proteins, antioxidants and other nutrients, they do have lower levels of pesticides. Organically raised animals are less like to be contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria as organic farming rules prohibit the use of antibiotics in many cases. No individual health benefit was found at all from purchasing organic milk, but the AAP emphasizes that all milk should be pasteurized to cut the risk of bacterial infections including salmonella, E. coli, listeria campylobacter and brucella.
The report was released at a news conference on October 22 at the AAP National Conference & Exhibition and was published in the November issue of Pediatrics. The AAP does state that buying meat from organic farms that don’t use antibiotics for non-therapeutic uses could potentially reduce antibiotic resistance in bacteria that make people sick. The organization calls for well-designed, larger studies that directly measure environmental exposure to hormones such as estrogen at low levels to evaluate the impact of hormonal exposure of children through meat and milk.
In a news release from the AAP, Janet Silverstein, MD, FAAP, a member of the AAP Committee on Nutrition and one of the lead authors of the report—“Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages”—said, “What’s most important is that children eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products, whether those are conventional or organic foods. This type of diet has proven health benefits.”
In a consumer report on ABC News, Dr. Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician, epidemiologist and professor of preventive medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, said he agreed with the report’s findings regarding the likely benefits of feeding kids organic foods. He wrote in an email, “Children who eat a largely organic diet have 90 percent lower levels of pesticides in their bodies than children who eat conventionally grown, or pesticide-treated, food.”
According to the World Health Organization, unintentional poisonings kill up to 355,000 people worldwide annually, especially in settings where toxic chemicals may be released directly into air, water and soil from industry and unsustainable forms of agriculture.