Organic Matters in Foods and Formulas for Children
When you’re considering adding formula to your little one’s feeding routine, it’s natural to have questions! Parents like you are asking: what’s the best formula for my child? Should I choose an organic formula? And, what does organic really mean anyway?
The answers to those questions are really important because they help you make the best possible decisions for your little one. That’s why we’re sharing your top questions - and our answers - about why choosing organic foods and formulas is important for your family.
Let’s start with the basics: what does it mean for food and formula to be organic?
When you see the USDA Certified Organic seal on a package of formula or food, that means that at least 95% of the ingredients used in the product are certified organic. Organic certification means that the ingredient must be grown, created, or processed without the use of genetic engineering (GMOs), ionizing radiation, sewage sludge, and most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. And, the production, handling, and labeling of the product must also meet USDA organic standards.
Staying true to our Pure 10 Pledge, Nature’s One sources USDA certified organic ingredients whenever possible. That’s why nearly all Baby’s Only® formulas include the USDA organic seal. Products with the UDSA organic seal mean that at least 95% of the ingredients used are certified organic, and that production processes meet all the necessary standards. When 95% of the ingredients are organic, the other (up to) 5% of ingredients would include ingredients like vitamins and minerals that can’t be produced organically, but are allowed in organic foods because they support the healthy growth of children.
In order for the USDA certified organic seal to appear on any product, the product must be:
- “100% organic” This means that all the ingredients and processing aids are certified organic OR
- “Organic” This means that all the ingredients must be certified organic, except when specifically allowed on the National List of Approved and Prohibited Substances.
But there’s more to the “organic” category than the USDA organic seal. Within organic regulations, food can be also be labeled as “made with organic ______” (but not include the USDA organic seal) when at least 70% of the product includes certified organic ingredients (excluding salt and water).
Are organic foods and organic pediatric formulas more nutritious?
That’s a complex question to answer, because we know that food offers more than just its vitamins and minerals.
Some research demonstrates that organic fruits and vegetables have higher levels of healthy phytochemicals, and that organic dairy products offer more omega-3 fatty acids, compared to their conventional counterparts. 4 That’s good news, since we know that phytochemicals and omega-3 fatty acids support our health.
Still, making these comparisons isn’t always straightforward. A recent study in the journal Nutrients raises the concern that there simply isn’t enough evidence to make a definitive statement on the health benefits from eating organic food. 5 Whether organic foods are more “nutritious” isn’t exactly clear right now.
But – and this is a major point - it’s important to recognize that food offers more than just its “nutrients” (in other words, its vitamins and minerals). Food can also contain heavy metals, pesticide residues, and even antibiotic-resistant bacteria. And because of this, that’s where organic foods really appear to shine.
Recent research has shown that, when compared to their conventional counterparts, organic foods offer significantly lower levels of the heavy metal cadmium, for example. And that’s a good thing, since cadmium is linked to neurodevelopmental disorders in children, as well as disorders of the immune and endocrine system. 6-8 Research has also shown that organic foods offer far fewer pesticide residues than non-organic foods, and a reduced exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.6,9
If you are concerned about the impact of pesticides on your little one’s health, learn more about the impact of glyphosate, a pesticide, here.
Are there health benefits to choosing organic foods and organic formulas?
We still have a lot to learn about how organic foods impact our health. There is research that shows health benefits associated with organic food. For example: it appears that organic fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia in pregnancy, and that organic dairy foods may help reduce the risk of eczema in infants. 8,9 Plus, emerging science demonstrates an association among children who eat organic food and higher scores in intelligence and memory testing.10
However, for various reasons, it’s hard to attribute these benefits directly to the organic nature of the food. Researchers are not certain if health benefits like these are due specifically to organic food consumption, or to the general trend that those who eat organic foods tend to lead healthier lifestyles overall. 4,13
Now, let’s talk about contaminants.
Why are heavy metals, pesticides, and other contaminants in foods or formulas a concern for babies and children?
While the idea of contaminants like heavy metals and pesticides in anyone’s food should cause concern, researchers suggest that infants and toddlers are most sensitive to contaminants in food. There are several theories about why this might be the case:
- The potential that children may consume more contaminants than adults per kilogram of body weight,
- The opportunity for more toxins to be absorbed by an infant due to their slower moving digestive tract,
- The potential that some contaminants may “bioaccumulate” (in other words, add up in the body) leading to cumulative effects on the body later in life, and
- The belief that periods of growth (like in infancy and toddlerhood) are most sensitive to endocrine disruptions.
Simply put, children are presumed to be more vulnerable and sensitive to toxins like heavy metals and other contaminants than adults. 1-3 And this is concerning for many reasons. Authors of a 2021 article in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients explain that “chronic exposure [to contaminants in food] can lead to developmental delays, disorders of the nervous, urinary and immune systems, and to cardiovascular disease.3 The best way to avoid these effects is to avoid these contaminants as much as possible.
Learn more about the impact of heavy metals here.
How can I reduce my child’s exposure to contaminants like heavy metals and pesticide residues?
You can minimize excess consumption of contaminants in your child’s food by making sure that your child’s meals include many food groups and by encouraging a wide variety of foods each week. 3 Different foods and food groups offer different important nutrients - and also potential exposure to different concerning compounds. Variety means that your little one is more likely to get enough of what you DO want, and not too much of the things you don’t.
We also recommend that you choose foods that have been tested to demonstrate low or no levels of contaminants (like pesticides), especially when your child is fed one particular food or formula regularly. That kind of information is available through sources like the Clean Label Project, where you can browse a variety of food and formula options that meet their high standards.
Is Nature’s One concerned about contaminants, and the purity of their ingredients?
Absolutely! Nature’s One is proud to offer formulas that help you reduce your child’s exposure to contaminants by maintaining high purity standards for all of our ingredients. We include USDA certified organic ingredients whenever possible, test product ingredients for heavy metals like arsenic, lead, and mercury, and only source ingredients from suppliers who meet our high-quality standards.
We’re proud to say that our formulas have received the Clean Label Project’s Purity Award - awarded to products that meet their stringent standards for pesticide residues, heavy metals, bisphenols, and phthalates. Simply put, ingredient purity matters to us because we know it matters to you, too.
Read more about our Commitment to Purity.
- Landrigan PJ, Kimmel CA, Correa A, Eskenazi B. Children’s health and environment: public health issues and challenges for risk assessment. Environ Health Perspect. 2004; 112:257-265.
- Beszterda M, Frański R. Endocrine disruptor compounds in environment: As a danger for children health. Pediatr Endocrinol Diabetes Metab. 2018;24(2):88-95. doi: 10.18544/PEDM-24.02.0107. PMID: 30300430.
- Mielech A, Puścion-Jakubik A, Socha K. Assessment of the Risk of Contamination of Food for Infants and Toddlers. Nutrients. 2021 Jul 9;13(7):2358. doi: 10.3390/nu13072358. PMID: 34371868; PMCID: PMC8308760.
- Mie A, Andersen HR, Gunnarsson S, et al. Human health implications of organic food and organic agriculture: a comprehensive review. Environ Health. 2017 Oct 27;16(1):111. doi: 10.1186/s12940-017-0315-4. PMID: 29073935; PMCID: PMC5658984.
- Vigar V, Myers S, Oliver C, Arellano J, Robinson S, Leifert C. A Systematic Review of Organic Versus Conventional Food Consumption: Is There a Measurable Benefit on Human Health? Nutrients. 2019 Dec 18;12(1):7. doi: 10.3390/nu12010007. PMID: 31861431; PMCID: PMC7019963.
- Barański M, Srednicka-Tober D, Volakakis N, et al. Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses. Br J Nutr. 2014 Sep 14;112(5):794-811. doi: 10.1017/S0007114514001366. Epub 2014 Jun 26. PMID: 24968103; PMCID: PMC4141693.
- Schoeters G, Den Hond E, Zuurbier M, Naginiene R, van den Hazel P, Stilianakis N, Ronchetti R, Koppe JG. Cadmium and children: exposure and health effects. Acta Paediatr Suppl. 2006 Oct;95(453):50-4. doi: 10.1080/08035320600886232. PMID: 17000570.
- Rodríguez-Barranco M, Lacasaña M, Aguilar-Garduño C, Alguacil J, Gil F, González-Alzaga B, Rojas-García A. Association of arsenic, cadmium and manganese exposure with neurodevelopment and behavioural disorders in children: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sci Total Environ. 2013 Jun 1;454-455:562-77. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.03.047. Epub 2013 Apr 9. PMID: 23570911.
- Smith-Spangler C, Brandeau ML, Hunter GE, Bavinger JC, Pearson M, Eschbach PJ, Sundaram V, Liu H, Schirmer P, Stave C, Olkin I, Bravata DM. Are organic foods safer or healthier than conventional alternatives?: a systematic review. Ann Intern Med. 2012 Sep 4;157(5):348-66. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-157-5-201209040-00007. Erratum in: Ann Intern Med. 2012 Nov 6;157(9):680. Erratum in: Ann Intern Med. 2012 Oct 2;157(7):532. PMID: 22944875.
- Glibowski P. Organic food and health. Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2020;71(2):131-136. doi: 10.32394/rpzh.2020.0110. PMID: 32519524.
- Dangour D, Lock K, Hayter A, et al. Nutrition-related health effects of organic foods: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr 2010 Jul;92(1):203-10. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.29269.
- Julvez J, Lopez-Vicente M, Warembourg C, et al. Early life multiple exposures and child cognitive function: A multi-centric birth cohort study in six European countries. Environ Pollut, 2021 Sept 1;284:117404. PMID 34077897 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2021.117404.
- Gosling CJ, Goncalves A, Ehrminger M, Valliant R. Association of organic food consumption with obesity in a nationally representative sample. Br J Nutr. 2021 Mar 28;125(6):703-711. doi: 10.1017/S0007114520003189. Epub 2020 Aug 17. PMID: 32799959.