In 2006, “Time” magazine reported that the purchase of organic baby food was a growing trend among consumers. Gerber Organic 1st Foods may appeal to your sensibilities, but not to your wallet. Organic products, made from fruits and vegetables grown without pesticides, cost more. However, while feeding your baby organic baby food may give you peace of mind, medical experts say that foods like Gerber Organic 1st Foods aren’t necessarily more nutritious.
About the Product
Gerber’s organic baby foods meet the standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP), which went into effect December 2002. According to Gerber’s website, its organic food products contain no added sugar, salt or starchy fillers. Gerber Organic 1st Foods are comprised of seven pureed food choices: apples, bananas, pears, prunes, carrots, peas and sweet potatoes. The ingredients in Gerber Organic 1st Foods vegetable selections include vegetables and water; fruit selections have added vitamin C. Gerber also makes organic cereals — brown rice and oatmeal — fruit juice, and second- and third-stage foods suitable for older tots. First-stage pureed foods are sold in packs of two separate servings.
The word “organic” has a strict application when used to describe Gerber Organic 1st Foods and similar organic baby foods and beverages. More specifically, organic refers to the way the food was grown. Organic fruits and vegetables must be grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and certain types of fertilizers, specifically those derived from petroleum or sewage. By their nature, organic foods are more earth-friendly. The animals used to make organic meats, such as chicken and beef, cannot be given growth hormones or antibiotics. Finally, organic foods cannot be irradiated. “Organic” and “natural” may seem as though they mean the same thing — but they don’t. “Natural” pertains to foods that are minimally processed without the addition of extra preservatives, dyes, flavorings and other additives.
According to the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), most people who purchase organic baby food are driven to do so because they feel the pesticide residue on fruits and vegetables used to make conventional baby food is unhealthy. The FMI cites a 2002 study conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences that found that children who ate organic baby foods were exposed to “significantly lower levels of organophosphorus pesticides than those who eat conventional baby food.”
Because there have been no long-term studies to determine if organic baby food yields any specific health benefits, the debate among medical experts continues to rage on. Some pediatricians are in full support of feeding organic foods and others view it less enthusiastically. Only you can decide if organic baby food is best for your child, says Jay L. Hoecker, M.D., for the Mayo Clinic. When feeding your baby, the most important thing to remember is that nutrition comes first. Organic baby food gives your child no additional nutritional benefits compared to conventional baby food.
Depending on the brand you choose, organic baby food can cost more than 50 percent a jar. If the price of organic baby food precludes it from your budget, prepare your baby’s food yourself with organic meats and produce, using a food processor or blender. Make sure to cook everything thoroughly, with the exception of bananas, says the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Regardless if you purchase organic or conventional baby food, the CSPI points out the importance of inspecting the ingredients list on your child’s food. Give baby food a pass if it contains added sugars, modified food starches or wheat or rice flours. If you find that two or more brands are equal, look at the number of calories your baby gets per serving — this tells you how much actual food is in the jar.