Interest in natural foods has grown tremendously over the last decade. The Associated Press reports that market share of organics increased “14 to 21 percent annually with sales of $24.6 billion in 2008.” Organic baby food items like Stonyfield Farm’s YoBaby are available at mainstream retailers such as Wal*Mart, and anyone who watches Sesame Street on the regular knows Earth’s Best Organics are a ‘proud sponsor’ of the show. But the AP says watchdogs think the National Organic Program “has not been restrictive enough in what it allows to be labeled as organic,” so in an effort to crack down on Bush administration leniency, President Obama announced this week that the additives ARA and DHA “will no longer be permitted in infant formula or baby foods certified as organic because (they) have not received legal approval for use in organic products,” according to The Washington Post. The article goes on to say that ARA and DHA, thought to promote brain and eye development, “are present in 90 percent of organic infant formulas.”
A quick search on Amazon shows that Earth’s Best Organic and Similac Organic formulas both contain the fatty acids. The problem is not that omega-3 and omega-6 are bad for infants; the acids themselves occur naturally in breast milk. But these beneficial omegas are produced chemically “using a potential neurotoxin known as hexane,” then added to formula. Presumably non-organic formulas like Enfamil Premium will continue to include ARA and DHA, begging the question, if they’re not safe for organics, why should they be added at all?
Makers of the synthetic acids argue that the benefits of adding ARA and DHA outweigh the dangers and plan to push for their continued inclusion in organic formula. Cassie France-Kelly of Market Biosciences told the Washington Post, “There is no organic alternative to these fatty acids and we firmly believe that DHA and ARA are important to health.” The natural alternative, of course, is breast milk. But for mothers who have trouble breastfeeding (like I did), formula is the only means to an end. Unless you’re willing and can afford to buy breast milk online. But that’s, as we say where I grew up, a whole ‘nuther story.