The American Academy of Pediatrics has finally weighed in on organic foods, saying parents who want to reduce their child's pesticide exposure may seek out organic fruits and vegetables -- but that doesn't mean they're safer or healthier than conventional equivalents.
Science hasn't proven that eating pesticide-free food makes people any healthier, the academy said.
"Theoretically there could be negative effects, especially in young children with growing brains," but rigorous scientific evidence is lacking, said Dr. Janet Silverstein, a co-author of the academy's new report and a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
"We just can't say for certain that organics is better without long-term controlled studies," she said.
The report was published online Monday in Pediatrics and echoes a Stanford University study released last month. That research concluded that while eating organic fruits and vegetables can reduce pesticide exposure, the amount measured in conventionally grown produce was within safety limits.
Since organic foods tend to be costlier, a good strategy for penny-pinching parents concerned about pesticides is to buy only organic versions of foods with the most pesticide residue - including apples, peaches, strawberries and celery, Silverstein said.
A recent report from the Environmental Working Group ranked its "Dirty Dozen" of produce most contaminated with pesticides, placing apples atop the list with 93 percent of samples tested containing two or more pesticides.
The pediatricians group says higher prices on organic foods might lead some parents to buy fewer fruits and vegetables - not a good strategy, since both have health benefits including reducing risks for obesity, heart disease and some cancers.
Parents should aim to provide their families a diet rich in fruits and vegetables -- whether organic or not -- along with plenty of whole grains and low-fat or fat-free dairy products, the report says.
"This type of diet has proven health benefits," Silverstein said in a press release. "Many families have a limited food budget, and we do not want families to choose to consume smaller amounts of more expensive organic foods and thus reduce their overall intake of healthy foods like produce."
The American Academy of Pediatrics' report on organic foods can be accessed on its web site.