With all of the headlines in the news regarding the safety of our food supply, it is important to stay informed in order to make the best decisions on what we feed our children. The information regarding my personal areas of concern are listed below for your reference.
Pesticides in Produce
The Environmental Working Group has published a listing of the ‘Dirty Dozen Plus’ to highlight which fruits and vegetables have the highest pesticide residues. If you are selective in which foods to buy organic, this is a great list to have as a reference.
Arsenic in Juice & Rice
2012 saw reports of arsenic in juice and rice which is of major concern. Although the test reports for juice have been made public, the FDA has not publicized the specific brands of rice that were tested. The consumer reports articles on arsenic in juice and arsenic in rice are a good source of information if you are currently giving juice and/or rice to your child.
A consolidated listing of fruit & juice products tested for lead can be found in the Envirolaw Test Results Document.
Antibiotics in Meat
There is an alarming amount of antibiotics being used in our meat and poultry supply. Forbes and The NYTimes both have written great articles on the use of antibiotics in our food supply. There are Organic and All Natural meat choices and I wasn’t initially aware of the actual differences. Organic labeling indicates that the animals are raised in cage-free environments and roam freely on pastures. They eat a diet that is certified organic and are free of antibiotics, hormones and other chemicals.
All Natural indicates that the animals may or may not have access to pastures. They may eat a diet that has been genetically modified but they do not have antibiotics, hormones and other chemicals added. Using the term All Natural really indicates that the product doesn’t have artificial additives. It does not indicate that the animals have access to sunlight, fresh air or pastures. The USDA has published a report on meat and poultry labeling terms for reference.
Artificial Food Coloring
The FDA is currently exploring associations between food coloring and hyperactivity in children. Food dyes are prevalent in our foods and according to Eugene Arnold, MD, professor emeritus at Ohio State University, U.S. consumption of food dyes has quadrupled since 1950. More information can be found in the article ‘FDA Mulls Safety of Artificial Food Coloring’.
Synthetic DHA in Milk
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain development as Omega-3 DHA represents 30% of brain matter. DHA is the most complex form of Omega-3 and is difficult to include in our diet as only few foods such as fish and flaxseed oil contain a significant amount. The good news is that many dairy brands now offer milk fortified with Omega-3 DHA. However, many brands are using synthetic DHA in their products. The USDA is now proposing rules to disallow synthetic vitamins and minerals in organic products. We chose Organic Valley fortified milk as it uses pure fish oil from a wild-harvested and sustainable fish source. All impurities (PCBs, mercury) are removed before it is concentrated. It provides 50mg of Omega-3 DHA and EPA in every 8 oz glass.
Note that per their website, Organic Valley’s plastic packaging does not contain vinyl chloride (found in PVC), BPA or phthalates.
Recombinant Growth Hormone (rBGH) in Milk
Recombinant Growth Hormone is a synthetic hormone given to daily cows to increase milk production. It was approved for use by the FDA in 1993 but is not permitted in most countries within the European Union, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The use of rBGH increases levels of another hormone called insulin-like growth factor or IGF-1 which some studies have found to be linked to the development of prostate, breast and colectoral cancers. The use of rBGH in dairy cows also increases the risk of mastitis and other udder infections by 25% which leads to increased antibiotic use. Look for milk that is labeled rBGH-free or buy organic! Further information on the use of hormones in our food supply can be found in the Meat Eater’s Guide article by EWG.
Yogurt and Vitamin D
Did you know that most brands of yogurt do not contain vitamin D? I assumed most if not all brands did contain this essential vitamin so was a bit shocked when I learned otherwise. We have been buying Stonyfield organic yogurt and this is one of the brands which does contain vitamin D. I don’t believe that the others listed in the US News article ‘Which Yogurts Have Vitamin D?’ have organic options. If you are looking to select food products which contain Vitamin D, be sure to check out this article!
Per their website, Stonyfield uses plypropylene (#5) plastic in their packaging and have partnered with Preserve (another favorite brand of ours) to turn their yogurt cups into new products!
Eggs and Cholesterol
Our little guy loves eggs but is already getting the daily recommended servings of meat and he loves to snack on yogurt, cheese and nuts so we do need to keep an eye on any additional foods high in cholesterol such as eggs. Most kids love eggs so if your little one does as well, it might be beneficial to read the articles by the American Academy of Pediatrics and pediatrics.about.com which outline the recommended daily cholesterol limit to ensure that your child’s diet is not exceeding it.
List of Chemicals to Avoid
Mightynest has outlined a listing of the most dangerous chemicals for children which is based on EPA data and has been published by the Feingold Association. I was familiar with most of these chemicals but not all so it definitely has been a good reference for me.