The Case Against Commercial Baby Food
The norm in North America is to begin introducing processed baby foods at about 6 months of age. Conventional introduction of solids usually involves starting with cereals, followed by vegetables, then meats and fruits. Baby is spoon-fed the foods and quantities that the parents and health practitioners have decided are appropriate. What is the problem with this picture?
Most commercial baby foods contain ingredients like chemically modified corn starch or tapioca, sugar, water, and salt. By weight, these foods contain far fewer nutrients than home-made preparations made with fruit alone. A serving of jarred apricot preparation can contain anywhere from ½ to ¼ the vitamin A that the plain fruit contains.
These foods are highly processed to extend shelf life. This is convenient, but leads to a depletion of nutrients and enzymes found in raw or steamed fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C is added to replace what is lost in the cooking process, but the enzymes and other natural compounds are just lost.
Breast milk is the most complete, most nutritious food your baby can get. Prematurely replacing breast milk with inferior food sources such as processed baby foods and pasteurized, homogenized cow’s milk may compromise your child’s overall health. While introduction to solids is unavoidable and necessary, there is no need to rush the process for fear that too much mother’s milk will spoil the child’s appetite for other foods. Foods should be given only after the child has nursed, so that they remain complementary rather than replacing the milk.
Genetically Modified Ingredients
There are many concerns about the possible health risks of consuming genetically modified foods (GMOs). Very little research has actually been done on the long-term health effects of consuming such products. Studies that have been done so far have uncovered a link between the consumption of GMO corn and infertility in mice. GMOs contain hundreds of amino acids that have never existed before. This alone should raise concern.
Many brands of commercial baby foods do contain GMO ingredients. Nestle Canada shows little concern about the potential risks of GMO crops to babies and freely admits that GMO ingredients may be found in any of their products that contain soy, corn, potatoes, rice, cotton seed oil, canola oil, soy lecithin, plant proteins, corn sugars(dextrose, fructose, dextri-maltose, etc.), corn syrup. This includes baby cereals and infant formulas.
Heinz Canada states that GMO ingredients may be found in jarred foods that contain corn and in cereals that contain corn, soy, rice and sugars derived from corn. This company plans to phase out GMO ingredients in the long term.
Exposure to Chemicals
Some commercial baby foods are stored in plastic containers which may leach chemicals into them over time. For example, Heinz strained fruit purees are stored in plastic containers marked with the recycling #7, which means they are made of polycarbonate plastic. This plastic is known to leach Bisphenol-A, also known as BPA, which is a xenoestrogen, an endocrine disruptor that mimicks estrogen, the well-known female hormone. Chronic, low-level exposure to BPA has been linked to permanent changes in the reproductive tract, infertility, lowered sperm count, breast, uterine, and prostate cancer in women, and even Type 2 Diabetes.
A significant amount of publicity has been given to the potential dangers of BPA in baby bottles, but few parents realize that some baby food containers are made of the same hazardous plastic. The risk of leaching increases in the presence of acidic foods, such as fruits, high fat foods, and when the container is heated.
For more on plastics used for food containers and the chemicals they leach, see: