Warning: Once you’ve read this, you’ll probably never want to buy commercial baby food again.
Baby food jars can be a godsend to busy parents. Pick them off the supermarket shelf, stick them in a warmer and you’re done. Baby’s meal is ready to go in a fraction of the time it would take you to home cook something half decent yourself. Unfortunately, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s guidelines on what represents “creditable infant foods,” the majority of the baby food products available on the market here in Singapore would be considered “not creditable”. In plain English, they don’t meet basic nutritional requirements to be considered valid provisions. Could it really be true that the food we are giving our babies is not going to meet their nutritional needs? Unfortunately the news is much worse folks; not only are many of the commercial baby food products that are available in Singapore nutritionally poor, they also pose much greater risks to bub’s health, development and long-term well being. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why you should ditch the commercial baby foods… brace yourself; the facts are really quite astounding.
6 Reasons Commercial Baby Food is Really Bad for Bub
1) They include Bulking Agents/Fillers
Perhaps the biggest no-no lurking in your baby’s jar of food is bulking agents and fillers. Bulking agents are used to thicken the watery product so that innocent mamas and dadas think they are buying something substantial and nutritious (when really it’s just watered down gunk). Bulking agents can take many different forms, including refined rice, corn and wheat. Although they look like innocent ingredients, bulking agents should be avoided at all costs. Why?
- They have probably been bleached, chemically and genetically modified and doused in preservatives (yummy).
- They are potential allergens. A 2009 study found that early exposure to corn and wheat can result in long term-allergies, such as allergy to wheat (Celiac disease) (Erin 2009).
- They can cause tooth decay because they stick to bub’s little toothy pegs and are not easily shifted.
- They are devoid of any nutritional value.
Let’s look at the example of a very common bulking agent, starch, to see what you’re really feeding bub if this is lurking in her favourite jar of wholesome goodness. These are just some of the chemicals that are used to modify starch so that it can be used as a bulking agent:
- propylene oxide – a derivative of petrol.
- hydrochloric acid – a corrosive used to remove rust.
- succinic anhydride – a chemical that is used in paper production to strengthen paper.
- potassium hydroxide – a chemical that used to make alkaline batteries.
- sodium hydroxide – a chemical base that is used to make detergents, paper and drain cleaners.
Nice! Your baby is a precious and fragile little being who is undergoing major development. He or she will have little resistance to chemicals so you should avoid the following types of ingredients:
- millet flour
- rice starch
- wheat starch
- tapioca starch
- maltodextrin (this stuff is also used as the sticky gum on envelopes and postage stamps!)
2) They are pasteurized
I’ve looked at the evils of pasteurization before (Cow’s milk in Singapore) so I won’t go there again. Suffice to say that food that has been heated to extreme temperatures will have very little nutritional value. Commercial baby food manufacturers are aware of this… so, guess what? They add synthetic vitamins and minerals back in. Does this mean bub gets the good stuff he or she needs? Nope. Synthetic vitamins are not readily absorbed by your little one’s body. You can read more here. Furthermore, some added vitamins are just preservatives in disguise. For example, it’s a wide-known fact that vitamin C is really ascorbic acid, and the use of this in foods has been linked with cancer, heart disease and reduced endurance capacity. You can read all about the dangers of synthetic Vitamin C here.
3) They often include preservatives (artificial and natural)
Think that because your jar of baby food promises “no artificial preservatives” you can rest easy? Think again! In addition to heating food to within an inch of its life to preserve it, manufacturers also like to use preservatives. Those producers that claim their products contain “no artificial preservatives” often use natural ones instead, many of which are equally bad for bub. Some of the natural preservatives that can readily be found in baby food include citric acid, ascorbic acid (also often labelled “Vitamin C”) and even folic acid. What’s so bad about that? Many of these same acids are used to remove limescale from boilers and evaporators, remove rust, and dissolve substances like iron and fibreglass.
Acidic food is simply no good for baby because it is typically produced from genetically modified ingredients, can increase baby reflux and is linked with a wide range of food intolerance symptoms. The worse thing of all is that citric acid and other food additives manufactured with genetically modified microorganisms do not have to be labeled if the manufacture claims that the additive has been purified and contains no microorganisms. So, your “natural preservative” may indeed be a genetically modified MSG-producing acid that does a lot more harm than good. You can read more here. Again, take Vitamin C as an example. You will frequently find this listed as an ingredient in jars of baby food. Vitamin C is basically ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid is produced via a process involving cornstarch and volatile acids. Regardless of the claims that baby food manufacturers make, the “added Vitamin C” is really not Vitamin C at all… it’s a highly processed acidic powder.
4) They often include natural and artificial flavours
You probably know all too well the importance of avoiding artificial flavours (the majority of which are derived from petroleum), but far too many of us fall victim to the marketing con that is “natural flavours.” The words “natural flavour” can be used to describe flavourings that start from a natural source. However, it’s what happens next that’s the big problemo. Natural flavours are chemically produced laboratory concoctions in the same way that artificial flavours are. The only difference is that the chemicals used to process them are naturally occurring. That’s okay then, right? Well, no.
An example of a highly undesirable product that can be legally described as a “natural” flavor is a “glutamate” bi-product like MSG, a known excitotoxin. Exocitoxins quite literally make us addicted to flavours. What’s more, they overexcite your cells until they die or are damaged causing “injury” and potential disease. They have been linked with a wide range of nerve disorders, diseases and other issues such as obesity, migraines, fatigue and depression. Do you really want you baby consuming this stuff at such a tender age?
The crux of the matter is that if your little one’s food contains natural flavours then you quite literally do not know what you are feeding him or her. Natural flavours are extracted from a natural source, heavily processed with chemicals (in the same way artificial flavours are produced) and then sold to us as something wholesome. As author Eric Schlosser describes in his bestselling book Fast Food Nation: “Natural and artificial flavours are now manufactured at the same chemical plants, places that few people would associate with Mother Nature. Calling any of these flavours “natural” requires a flexible attitude toward the English language and a fair amount of irony.”
5) They lack the nutrients baby needs
Consumer watchdogs all over the world have been warning mamas and dadas for quite some time that baby food (organic and non organic) is not what it’s cracked up to be. This was reinforced in 2013 by a study by the University of Glasgow, which revealed that not only was infant food sold commercially too sweet (containing on average five times more sugar than a mother’s breast milk), it also contained less than 50% of the nutrients that a littlie would get from an equivalent serving of home-cooked food.
According to European laws, if a protein is named first in the name of a baby food, for example, chicken and potato dinner, that protein should make up at least ten percent of that product’s contents. However, the majority of commercial baby food jars on the shelves here in Singers most certainly don’t meet those requirements and many an unsuspecting parent has mistakenly thought that the contents of these jars offer complete meals. The bottom line is this: babies fed on commercial baby food jars and milk alone will not get all the nutrients they need for their growth and development. Remember that.
6) There’s a risk of contamination with bugs and animal waste products
Yep, you did just read that correctly. According to America’s Food and Drug Administration, it is completely acceptable for baby food jars to contain non-food items, such as bugs, rodent waste products and maggots to be present in baby food jars (http://jfrehab.blogspot.sg/2012/05/eating-bugs-fda-allows-cockroaches-in.html). To give you an example, according to their guidelines, it is permissible for canned mushrooms to contain up to 20 maggots of any size per 100 grams. If you’ve got the stomach for it, you can read more here.
Given that the majority of baby food products available on the shelves here in Singapore were manufactured in America, you therefore shouldn’t be too surprised if you find a nasty lurking in your bub’s “yoghurt blend.” This family did.
The Ideal Baby Food Jar?
Are there any wholesome baby foods available that really do meet bub’s nutritional needs without the thrown-in nasties?
Well, we have taken a detailed look at the ingredients lurking in some of Singapore’s top commercial baby food products. Our findings may surprise you: baby food brands.