Part 1: Deciphering the Commercial Baby Food Jungle

Part 1: Deciphering the Commercial Baby Food Jungle

THE BIG CATS

Welcome to the first part of the baby food jungle blog series; deciphering the commercial baby food jungle. Let’s learn about the animals in the Canadian infant food market.

The king of the jungle, is Heinz taking approximately eighty to ninety percent of the market share. Regardless, of this there is still an extensive selection. Heinz, although one of the youngest in baby food production, established in 1933 is still the most popular. Under the Heinz label is Pablum and twenty percent of Earth’s Best; while the rest is owned by the Hain Celestial Group.


Now behind every good lion there is a lioness, in second position for the crown is Nestle – Gerber. Since, the merger of this company Gerber has been running under the Nestle label successfully since 1998. Nestle, a Swedish company has been manufacturing baby food since 1867 and introduced milk based baby products in 1879. Couple that up with Gerber, which was founded in Fremont, Michigan; by a husband and wife team. The wife being pediatrician, started manufacturing baby food in 1927. With this team of lioness they have become a main staple power house in the enfant food market.

Now of we have the cubs, always trying to rein supreme; President’s Choice the newcomer to the baby food aisles. The ‘PC’ brand is owned by Loblaws Company Limited, which was founded in Toronto, Ontario in 1919. In the mid-eighties they started producing baby food. Yahoo, go Canada! Opposition although small does exist as ‘PC’ is leading the charge against the baby food giants.

So now you know all the big cats in the jungle. Yes, they have all had scandals, awards, mergers, recalls, and redemptions. But, where do you start, not all baby food is created equal? Especially, as parents we are more educated and worry about herbicides, pesticides, GMO’s, and more, there is plenty of pressure to make the right choices for our wee ones.

FOOD LABELS – FOR CHILDREN 2YRS AND UNDER



In Canada there is sodium restrictions on all baby food. There is also a mandatory labelling system for children’s food for 2 years and under, and different mandatory label system for enfant formal or human milk substitute. The mandatory system is so stringent it even tells the producer the title so every label is consistent they must disclose everything that is shown below:

To make any nutrient content statements on food intended for a child under two; these are the list of statements that are admissible:

  •     “Source of Protein”
  •     “Excellent Source of Protein”
  •     “More Protein”
  •     “No Sodium Added” or “No Salt Added”
  •     “No Added Sugar”
  •     “Contains No Starch”

Vitamin and Mineral content claims on food for children under the age of two are not permissible unless:

  •   Recommended daily intakes have been established
  •   Minimum five percent of the RDI (Recommended Dietary     Intake) per serving of stated size is presented for the vitamin or mineral that is the subject of the claim
  •   Content is declared as a percentage of the daily value per serving of stated size

For example, if all the requirements above are met then the company can state on the packaging that the baby food “Contains Vitamin C”, is a “Source of Iron” or “Contains 8 Essential Nutrients”.

If the manufacture uses the word ‘Enriched’ on the label it can only be enriched with thiamine, riboflavin, phosphorous, iron, niacin (niacin amide), calcium, or iodine. These are voluntary enrichments and they can use more than one; however they must also adhere to the above points mentioned.

Of course, “all ingredients must be declared in descending order of portioned weight as they are determined before they are combined to make the food.” (Canadian Food Inspection Agency)

Logically, we can assume that apple puree weights more than sugar (glucose, fructose or sucrose) or cornstarch in a smaller portion size. Even though there is less apple puree in the product, it can still be listed as the first ingredient because it weighs more before the product is combined.

Here is a great video provided by KidsHealth.org that tells you how to read a food label.



Now that you understand the logistics behind the label you can interpret what you think you are comfortable with feeding your child.

COMPANY LABELING SYSTEMS

Yes, that is right you read that label right….there is not only the Canadian government labeling system but there is also company labeling systems that don’t coincide with each other. Leading to hazy consumer turf, cluttered with puzzling and tricky obstacles for both parents and manufactures. This table of recommendations should help you wade through the murky labels and provide you with knowledge and the confidents to choose the right level of food for your growing child.

LEVEL

RECOMMENDATIONS

EXAMPLES

 Stage 1
Beginners

  • 4 to 6 months
  • First time on solid foods months
  • Sets foundation
  • Finely pureed

  pureed peas

  pureed carrots

  pureed peaches

  pureed bananas 

  Stage 2 
+ 6 Mths

 

  • 6 to 8 months
  • More experienced eaters
  • Two or more ingredients
  • Offer new flavours and textures
  • Mashed texture
  • Intro to finger foods

 cereal wheat strawberry and banana

  beef and vegetable

  carrot cauliflower cheese and rice

  blueberry vanilla puffs 

Stage 3
+8 Mths

  • 7 to 9 months
  • Novice eaters
  • Learning to chew or gum foods
  • Chunkier textures with larger portions
  • Might decide to give mashed up table food
  • Juices are available           

fresh berries and cereal

  lemon chicken and vegetables

  carrot chicken and quinoa

  turkey and sweet potatoes



Stage 4
+ 12 Mths

 

  • Advanced Eaters
  • One stop meals
  • Easy-to-chew
  • For children to learn how to use utensils
  • Soft table foods
  • Feature more complex textures

 

  cereal bars acai blueberry raspberry

  mashed potatoes and turkey

  zesty tomato lil’crunchies

  noodles in meat sauce with vegetables

 

INGREDIENTS YOU SHOULD KNOW

Now that you have a good handle on labels there is some ingredients that you as a parent should know about:



1)      Modified cornstarch and flours:

  • Manufactures use starch and flour to thicken or stabilize products
  • Starch is more refined then flour
  • 1995 the use of modified cornstarch was criticized for ‘cheating babies’
  • Studies revealed as not being harmful
  • Many brands pulled the use of it
  • Read the labels because: President’s Choice adds flour to many products, lentil and rice flour; Heinz Canada uses a yellow label stating on it products that contain “No Added Modified Starch” however in place of this they use rice starch and tapioca starch in many products, and Pablum (owned by Heinz) uses modified cornstarch that is the second ingredient in some products



2)      Trans-fats (trans fatty acids):

  • Unhealthy substances made through a chemical process of hydrogenation of oils
  • Hydrogenation means simply to add hydrogen (this also a great topic for another blog)
  • Hydrogenation solidifies oils to increase shelf life
  • Messing with the body’s ability to regulate cholesteral
  • Infants do not need to consume trans fats, they deserve to be a no-no on your ingredient list

3)      Vitamins and Minerals

  • Check baby foods for these ten important ingredients: calcium, essential fatty acids (fats found in plants, to form omegas), iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and vitamins A,C,D, and E

4)      Probiotics

  • Nestle – Gerber have two ingredients that you will not find in other brands, inulin and oligofructose these are probiotics
  • Probiotics natural occur in breastmilk, which aid in your babies healthy digestion
  • Probiotics stimulate good bacteria to grow in the stomach
  • There are lots of food that we eat that are alive yogurt, cheese, bananas, asparagus, whole grains, etc.

THE ORGANIC OPTION 

The organic baby food is a personal one, there is no difference nutritional between conventional baby food and organic baby food. With that being said there is a difference in the way in which the crops are grown and harvested, how the cattle raised and what it eats. Baby’s eat more fruits and vegetables and the can be exposed to more pollutants. Don’t assume that the product is organic, always check that the label reads that it has been ‘certified organically grown’; it takes a lot to be certified organic, especially in Canada. So companies are proud to show you that they have jumped through all the hoops to get that product to you. However, whatever you decide just remember that variety nutritious foods out weights organics for baby’s to be healthy and strong.

WHEN IS IT TIME TO THROW IT OUT

Okay it’s time you have claimed to the top spot in the baby food jungle, you have final chosen the products that you are comfortable with feeding your child. You have popped the top, unzipped the seal, or twisted off the cap; when is it time to throw it out?

1) Once it is opened a jar of baby food can stay properly refrigerated and sealed for THREE days

2)  If you have fed your child out of a jar of baby food directly throw the remainder of that jar out. The child’s saliva has contaminated that baby food and causes spoilage, and believe me you don’t want to open a jar of bad baby food… that smell will knock out the sense of any jungle cat.

3)  It is not necessary to heat baby food, most infants will enjoy it chilled out of the fridge or at room temperature. If you do heat it make sure to stir it very well to avoid heat pockets. If you have a cub like mine, he only ate food that was warmer then room temperature…so to eat their own.

4)  Choose a baby cereal that you can make your own. You can add what you want to a plain cereal fruit, formal, breastmilk or yogurt; it is your choice.

5)  Check sugar content always.

WHO NEEDS DESSERT?

At 9 weeks pregnant your baby’s mouth and tongue are fully developed and has its first tiny taste buds developing. This is when they first experience different flavours, being passed through your blood stream into the amniotic fluid. From new born up to 3 months the baby can only distinguish between sweet and bitter; but prefer sweet. At 3 months and up the baby’s taste buds now include salty.

However, even though baby is born with a sweet tooth, dessert should also be on the no-no list. Even though the names are sooooo appealing, creamy dreamy rice pudding, chocolate banana cream pie, fruity apple and oat pudding, and of course tutti frutti dessert.

I will say it again, sweets are for mom’s to enjoy while baby is sleeping, let us say in a nice hot bath with lots of bubbles and candles…..oh wait unless that is what got you here in the first place…..dessert that is of course!

Okay, we have made it through the commercial food jungle. You have the knowledge and confidents to decide on what you are comfortable with feeding your lil’cub; so that they may rule the pride and its lands or be a fierce hunter along with the other females in the pride.

Next we are going to dive into and explore the wonders of homemade baby food, on our next blog in the series: Deciphering the Homemade Baby Food Jungle.

Join me then!