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Organic foods and children

Debby Demory-Luce, PhD, RD, LD
Kathleen J Motil, MD, PhD
Section Editor
Teresa K Duryea, MD
Deputy Editor
Alison G Hoppin, MD


Organically grown foods are foods that are grown or processed without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides [1-5]. Organic farmers attempt to protect the environment by using natural matter (eg, aged manure, humus, and compost) for fertilizer and biological methods of pest control (eg, crop rotation and natural insect predators like lady bugs) [2,4,6]. Livestock and poultry used for egg, dairy, and meat production are raised on organically grown feed, without antibiotics or hormones, and provided with access to the outdoors [6].

The standards for growing and labeling organic food may vary depending upon the certifying organization or agency. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization [7], as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States have adopted or proposed guidelines for the production, processing, labeling, and marketing of organic foods in an attempt to ensure that all foods that are labeled organic meet the same minimum standards.

Labeling requirements — As of April, 2008, food that is labeled "100 percent organic" or "organic" in the United States must meet the standards of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), with the following labeling requirements [8]:

To be labeled as "100 percent organic," all ingredients must be certified as organically produced and processed (excluding water and salt).

To be labeled "organic," foods must consist of at least 95 percent certified organically processed ingredients (excluding water and salt); the remaining 5 percent of ingredients may be non-organically produced but must be on the USDA's National List.

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: May 17, 2016.
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