Now, her daughter eats prepackaged organic purees and meals from brands such as Ella’s, Plum Organics and Happy Family, sometimes mixed with organic yogurt, plus finger foods and fresh produce such as avocado.
“She has a really advanced palate, and I hope it sticks,” Wolff says. “It looks like we have a food snob living in the house.”
The organic craze has gotten so intense that even parents of very sick children have been asking Hays and doctors at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center about replacing the hospital-provided liquids delivered by feeding tube with organic and homemade mixtures. “They couldn’t believe a liquid formula was as nutritious,” Hays says.
Paul Weiner, a Bethesda pediatrician, does not recommend organic baby food to patients because “there’s no definitive data that it’s better,” he says. He has gotten a lot of questions about arsenic in rice ever since last fall, when Consumer Reports found “worrisome levels” of the element in a variety of products, including infant rice cereal. The report led the Food and Drug Administration to test about 200 food samples. That produced similar results, but the agency did not recommend that consumers change their rice-eating habits. “We are not aware of any acute health risks linked with the consumption of infant rice in the U.S.,” the agency said in a message to consumers.
Weiner encourages parents to rotate rice cereal with barley cereal and oatmeal so that children don’t consume too much of it.
“If an adult were to eat that amount of arsenic, it wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but for a baby’s small body size, it adds up,” he says.
Hays hopes that parents will refocus their good intentions for children’s nutrition.
“My hope is that any parent that is going to be diligent to make sure their child doesn’t get pesticides and hormones would be diligent that their child avoided obesity, because that effort would trump anything that we could do to avoid the side effects of additives,” Hays says.
Saslow is a former Post staff writer.