What’s in that baby food pouch anyway?

Ah, the baby food pouch. Things dreams and lawsuits are made of.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has essentially provided Plum Organics (owned by Campbell Soups) and Gerber (owned by Nestle) a cease and desist notification unless they want a lawsuit. The CSPI is taking the two baby food giants to task by calling them out on misrepresenting the presence and proportions of its baby food and toddler ingredients.

In a nutshell, the concern is that what’s being marketed on the front of the pouch is not indicative of the actual nutritional value or prominence of ingredients. For example, the ingredient list for Plum’s Quinoa & Leeks with Chicken + Tarragon baby food pouch lists five ingredients before listing quinoa, leeks, or chicken. Chicken and quinoa are the sixth and seventh ingredients listed; leeks are the ninth. In the case of Gerber, Gerber, inexpensive apple and pear juices are used to bulk up items like 3rd Foods Lasagna with Meat Sauce Dinner and 2nd Foods Banana Peach Granola without being mentioned except on the ingredient list.

I do agree this is deceptive at worst and misleading at best. While parents are responsible for reading labels & making informed decisions, I also think companies should be responsible for being as transparent as possible. After all, their target market is tired, often overwhelmed and has a toddler tugging at their sleeve — the luxury of spending time reading labels and comparing products is not a reality on most days.

It’s important to note though that this isn’t a “pouch” issue — it’s a brand issue. There are companies that are far more transparent with their ingredient usage. Because we did baby led weaning and I wanted to keep our food costs down, we didn’t use pouches very often. However, a few times when we travelled or were unable to get our act together for a lunch or snack, I used brands like HappyTot, Sprout & Peter Rabbit and generally found their ingredients to be closely aligned with what was being marketed on the front of the package.

The pros of pouches is that they are super convenient, store easily & are transportable (no spoons or jars to mess with). Cons? Packaged baby food like pouches can be expensive. Label reading is required if you want to make sure you’re avoiding the Plum/Gerber issue, which can take both time and education. Another con is that because they are condensed fruits and vegetables, the sugar content tends to be higher than a non-juiced version of the same food.

If you do use pouches, take a peek at the labels to make sure the main ingredients on the front of the package match the top 2-3 ingredients listed on the back of the package. Also, try to opt for veggie heavy options vs. fruit to minimize sugar intake.

Source: Plum Organics, Gerber Accused of Bait-and-Switch Schemes on Baby Food Labels ~ Newsroom ~ News from CSPI ~ Center for Science in the Public Interest