When parents pluck those tiny containers of baby food off the shelves, the combination of brand recognition and reassuring depictions of wholesome, unblemished produce on the label creates a false sense of security. Many don’t even bother to look at the labels, due to the level of trust and comfort they feel in purchasing a brand that may have even been favored by their own parents. If baby food advertizements and labels were forced to be brutally honest, here are five of the ingredients that you might be surprised to discover.
- Saturated Fat – Residents of the United Kingdom were unpleasantly surprised when a 2009 study revealed that the trusted Heinz company boasted a baby and toddler food line in which on in four products was high in saturated fat. The same Guardian article also leveled the shocking accusation that “cheeseburgers and chocolate biscuits are more nutritious than some of the most popular baby foods from Britain’s leading brands.”
- Trans Fats – Almost every food label in North America proudly boasts an absence of trans fats; even obviously unhealthy snacks wave their trans fats-free banner with pride. In an era consumed with eradicating this heart-disease linked substance from any and all food, the British brand Cow & Gate’s Baby Balance bear biscuits not only contained trans fats, but were also improperly labeled, stated the Guardian.
- Salt – Adults may reach for the salt shaker, running the risk of hypertension with every dash; however, we’re largely in agreement that the food we feed our babies should be as pure as possible. Despite the assumption that the bland containers of pureed produce must be lacking in any and all seasoning, a study conducted by Daryth D. Stallone, Ph.D., M.P.H. & Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D. called Cheating Babies: Nutritional Quality and Cost of Commercial Baby Food found that the most popular brands actually contain added salt and sugar.
- Water (and Chemically Modified Tapioca Starch) – In addition to salt and sugar, Dr. Stallone and Dr. Jacobson also found that both Gerber and Heinz routinely replace up to 70% of second- and third- stage fruits with water and chemically altered tapioca starch. These artificial and heavily-modified thickeners are used in the place of the actual fruits pictured on the label, adding empty calories and removing valuable nutrients.
- Volatile Synthetic Solvents – Despite labels stating “certified organic” status, additives like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) have been approved for use in “organic” baby foods by the National Organics Standards Board. These genetically engineered substances are processed with solvents and chemicals, which would ordinarily preclude them from approval as organic substances.
The only surefire way to be completely aware of each and every ingredient in your baby’s food is to steam and puree fresh produce yourself, a practice that has grown in popularity after endorsements from celebrity moms like Kourtney Kardashian, who even ponders the benefits of adopting a similar diet for herself in a 2011 interview.