I got this in an email and thought it was worth sharing after hearing about how important organic food is all weekend at the Autism One Conference:The article is from Julia Moskin from the New York Times:
Amy Chase started feeding Similac Organic infant formula to her second son, Amos, as soon as he was born in November 2006."When I saw the organic at Publix, I bought it, no questions asked,"said Ms. Chase, a self-described "yoga mom" in Atlanta.Like Ms. Chase, many American parents have rushed to embrace Similac Organic formula, even though it sells for as much as 30 percent more than regular Similac. In 2007, its first full year on sale, it captured36 percent of the organic formula market, with sales of more than $10million, according to Kalorama Information, a pharmaceutical-industry research firm. (Similac's parent company, Abbott Laboratories, does not release sales figures for individual products.)
Parents may be buying it because they believe that organic is healthier,but babies may have a reason of their own for preferring Similac Organic: it is significantly sweeter than other formulas. It is the only major brand of organic formula that is sweetened with cane sugar, or sucrose, which is much sweeter than sugars used in other formulas. No health problems in babies have been associated with Similac Organic. But to pediatricians, there are risks in giving babies cane sugar: Sucrose can harm tooth enamel faster than other sugars; once babies get used to its sweeter taste, they might resist less sweet formulas or solid foods; and some studies suggest that they might over eat, leading to rapid weight gain in the first year, which is often a statistical predictor of childhood obesity.
Asked about these concerns, Carolyn Valek, a spokeswoman for Abbott Nutrition, the division of Abbott Laboratories that makes Similac Organic, said that sucrose had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and was considered "safe and well established." Ms. Valek said that Similac Organic had no more sweetener than other formulas and that prolonged contact with any kind of sugar could cause tooth decay. In Europe, where sudden increases in childhood obesity are a pressing public health issue, sucrose-sweetened formulas will be banned by the end of 2009, except when ordered by a doctor for babies with severe allergies. The 27 countries of the European Union adopted the new rules according to the recommendations of the group's Scientific Committee on Food, which found that sucrose provided no particular nutritional advantages, could, in rare cases, bring about a fatal metabolic disorder, and might lead to overfeeding.
The F.D.A., however, which regulates infant formula, does not specify which sugars can be used, as long as they are already classified as safe. Nor does it set the amount of sugar per serving, as it does for fats and proteins. Still, a number of pediatricians said they were surprised by the choice of sucrose."I would be very concerned about this as a pediatrician," said Dr.Benjamin Caballero, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and an expert in risk factors for childhood obesity. "The issue is that sweet tastes tend to encourage consumption of excessive amounts," Dr. Caballero said. Evidence shows that babies and children will always show a preference for the sweetest food available, he said, and they will eat more of it than they would of less-sweet food."This is how breakfast cereal manufacturers compete," he said.
Ms. Valek of Abbot Nutrition said the company did not "optimize for taste" when developing infant formula. "Our primary focus is to support normal growth through optimal nutrition and quality ingredients," she said. Organic formula, with sales of about $20 million annually, makes up only a sliver of the $2.5 billion formula market, according to A.C. Nielsen,the market research company. Similac Organic, analysts say, is largely responsible for the nearly ten fold growth in sales of organic formula from 2005 to 2007. According to the federal Department of Agriculture,which regulates organic labeling, a product can be labeled organic when 95 percent of its ingredients are grown without the use of certain pesticides and herbicides. All infant formulas contain added sugars, which babies need to digest the proteins in cow's milk or soy. Other organic formulas, like Earth's Best and Parent's Choice, use organic lactose as the added sugar. Organic lactose must be extracted from organic milk, the global supplies of which have been severely stretched in the last three years, driving up the price of the lactose.
I do like a lot of the organic products. I didn't use formula, so I didn't have this dilemma, but it makes me wonder if other "organic" food is really the best choice. At least the pesticides aren't in there! I think I need to be more careful about what I buy.