Baby food

The Environmental Working Group’s 2013 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce helps consumers navigate the most- and least-pesticide sprayed fruits and vegetables. The guide also helps consumers shopping for the small children in their lives find the healthiest options for babies, too.

According to a statement released by the EWG, last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (representing more than 60,000 pediatricians) “for the first time adopted an official position warning doctors and parents that pesticide exposures from food are potentially dangerous to children’s health.”

Of particular concern for children is the presence of the neurotoxins in organophosphate compounds—many of which are technically banned. According to the EWG, children with high exposures “were at greater risks of impaired intelligence and neurological problems,” even though pesticide manufacturers and produce industry trade groups say that no studies have been able to link pesticide residue with health risks for adults or children. But, says the organization, “lack of data about residue safety is not proof that pesticides are safe.”

Organophosphate pesticides have been shown to cause damage to the nervous system, which can greatly impact the development of a child’s brain. The group cites three studies published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives that showed exposure to organophosphate insecticides during pregnancy played a significant role in decreased IQ levels and impaired perceptual reasoning and nonverbal problem solving skills, as well as increased risk of ADHD and other behavioral issues.

This year’s Dirty Dozen list includes the added mention of kale and collard greens and crookneck zucchini squash for their high levels of organophosphate pesticides.

Specifically, prepared baby food items, including green beans, contained five pesticides, including the organophosphates methamidophos and acephate. The EPA and producers have voluntarily removed these chemicals, reports the EWG. Pears, a common ingredient in baby food tested positive for 11 pesticides, including iprodione, which has been labeled as a probable carcinogen and not even registered for use on pears.

The group urges parents to purchase organic options whenever possible—whether buying prepared baby food or making their own from scratch.

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Image: bradleygee