When buying organic doesn’t matter

A recent trip to the supermarket left me feeling better than usual about my family’s grocery shopping habits.

I made my way to the dairy aisle armed with new and must-have information from a recent American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report. The topic: Advantages and disadvantages of organic foods.

As someone whose family consumes about six gallons of milk every week, I’ve questioned whether my desire to save a not insignificant amount of money buying non-organic milk might be putting my three children at risk. And I’m fairly sure I’m not the only mom who has had this internal debate.

After all, as of 2010 the U.S. organic food industry was estimated to be over worth over $28 billion. And on average, organic products cost anywhere from 10 to 40 percent more than those that are non-organically produced.

So I was relieved, and albeit a bit surprised, to learn that the AAP committee (comprised of experts in both nutrition and environmental health) concluded, “There is no evidence of clinically relevant differences in organic milk and conventional milk.”

That’s right, no evidence that organic milk has less bacteria in it. No evidence that conventional milk has any worrisome bovine growth hormones. And few, if any, nutritional differences of any significance.

While not only renewing my confidence in my longstanding milk purchase habits, the report went one step further, noting that organic foods are not nutritionally superior to their traditional counterparts. This isn’t to say the two are created equal, because organic foods do contain fewer pesticides. It’s just not yet clear whether the reduced pesticide exposure makes any difference to our health.

So with new information in hand, as a consumer, pediatrician and parent, my stance is simple: If cost isn’t a concern to your family, then by all means, feel free to buy organic. But if it is, don’t let that keep you away from the produce section or feel guilty when grabbing your next gallon of milk.

And until we know more, certain people should err on the side of caution. Limiting pesticide exposure, especially in pregnant women, infants and young children, isn’t a bad idea considering the potential risky effects these chemicals may have on brain development.

More importantly than the organic vs. non-organic debate is the conversation about simply eating fruits and veggies in the first place. The average American diet is lacking in fresh produce, so any, organic or not, is better than none.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. Do you buy organic? Does this new information surprise you?

 

Other links of interest:

2008 Consumer Reports Article: Fruits and Vegetables, When to Buy Organic

Environmental Working Group’s “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides