WASHINGTON — Nonorganic baby food often contains pesticides, a new Environmental Working Group study finds — but they are likely in fewer products and may be less toxic than a 1995 EWG study found.
The new EWG investigation found nine pesticides in dozens of non-organic baby foods and none in organic products. It comes almost 30 years later we issued a groundbreaking report how pesticides end up in children’s food.
“Babies and young children are particularly vulnerable to the health risks posed by pesticides in food — and food is how most children will be exposed to pesticides,” said Sidney Evans, EWG senior science analyst and co-author of the report. “EWG’s new investigation makes vital recommendations for parents and caregivers who want to limit children’s daily exposure to pesticides.”
The nine pesticides found by the EWG in popular baby foods in the new study include acetamiprid, a a neonicotinoid insecticide that studies increasingly suggest may harm bees and humans, and captan, which is associated with cancer.
Other key findings:
- EWG sampled 73 products from three popular brands: 58 non-organic or conventional baby foods and 15 organic.
- At least one pesticide was found in 22 of the conventional baby foods.
- No pesticides were found in any of the 15 organic products.
Pesticides and children’s health
Conventional baby foods are made from fruits and vegetables grown with farming practices that can rely on large amounts of pesticides.
In contrast, organically certified the produce and products are held to much stricter standards that do not allow the use of most pesticides, which explains the lack of residues in our latest tests.
Federal oversight of pesticides in children’s foods is inadequate, as explored in depth in a landmark 1993 National Academy of Sciences. study.
And research published by EWG in 2020 found that the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees pesticide safety, failed to adequately consider children when setting legal limits for 90 percent of the most common pesticides.
Recommendations for parents and other caregivers
The EWG report provides guidance on how parents and other caregivers can shop for baby foods that may contain lower pesticide residues:
- Organic is always a good choice – when available and affordable.
- Consumers can use the EWG’s Shopping Guide for Pesticides in Products™ when analyzing baby food ingredients—this Dirty dozen™ consists of fruits and vegetables with higher pesticide residues and Pure fifteen™consists of those with minimal residuals.
- If you’re making your own baby food, the lists will help you determine which fruits and vegetables might be better choices.
Progress since 1995
Laboratory tests commissioned by the EWG for its 1995 study found 16 pesticides in eight types of baby foods made by the three companies that then dominated the market. An an impressive 53 percent of the 72 baby food products sampled had residues of at least one pesticide.
By comparison, this year’s study found pesticide residues in 38 percent of non-organic foods examined.
Pesticides discovered in 1995 were, on average, much more toxic and dangerous for infants to ingest – such as the brain-damaging chlorpyrifos, which in very small amounts can permanently damage the health of infants and children. In 2021, the EPA banned all uses of chlorpyrifos in food, a move EWG has advocated for for years.
“Advocacy works,” Evans said. “Any pesticide residue in baby food is concerning, but parents should feel reassured that some of the most toxic chemicals we found in our 1995 study are no longer being detected.”
EWG will continue its research on pesticides and baby food to protect everyone by advocating for the removal of these chemicals from all fruits and vegetables.
The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy, and unique educational tools, EWG stimulates consumer choice and civic action. Visit www.ewg.org For more information.