Parents going organic

Sales surge amid pesticide worries, fears for children

By Associated Press | November 3, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Erin O'Neal has two daughters and a fridge stocked with organic cheese, milk, fruits, and vegetables in her Annapolis, Md., home.
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She is among the increasing number of parents who buy organic to keep kids' diets free of food grown with pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, or genetic engineering. ''The pesticide issue just scares me -- it wigs me out to think about the amount of chemicals that might be going into my kid," said O'Neal, 36.

Sales of organic baby food have jumped nearly 18 percent since last year -- double the overall growth of organic food sales, according to the marketing information company ACNielsen.

As demand has risen, organic food for children has been popping up outside natural food stores. For example, Earth's Best baby food, a mainstay in Whole Foods and Wild Oats markets, just reached a national distribution deal with Toys ''R" Us and Babies ''R" Us. Gerber is selling organic baby food under its Tender Harvest label. Stonyfield Farm's YoBaby yogurt can be found in supermarkets across the nation.

The concern about children is that they are more vulnerable to toxins, said Alan Greene, a California pediatrician. As children grow rapidly, their brains and organs are forming and they eat more for their size than do grown-ups, Greene said. ''Pound for pound, they get higher concentrations of pesticides than adults do."

New government-funded research adds to the concern. A study of children whose diets were changed to organic found their pesticide levels plunged almost immediately. The amount of pesticide detected in the children remained imperceptible until they were switched back to conventional food.

''We didn't expect that to drop in such dramatic fashion," said Emory University's Chensheng Lu, who led the research.
© Copyright 2005 Globe Newspaper Company.

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