17 Truths About What's Hiding In Baby Food (And 5 Times Moms Don't Need To Worry)

We love our babies and want to feed them the best food possible. Babies have yet to develop their immune systems. Their bodies are also smaller and more fragile, so ingredients that might not harm us as adults can be life-threatening to an infant. This is why it is so important to be aware of what is in the baby food that we feed our children.

Before buying any brand of baby food, it is a good idea to read the list of ingredients on each item. This is one of the ways that moms can learn about what is in the baby food that they buy, and then make informed decisions about which brands to choose. But the research goes beyond just what the brand says is inside the baby food.

There could be other things lurking in the baby food that we find on the grocery store shelves. Research the companies to find out where they stand on safety regulations, how they test for the safety of their food and what their values are when it comes the to quality of ingredients. Does the company have any law suits against it for its baby food or other items that it sells? Are there items recalled from the store on a regular basis? If so, then maybe that is not a good brand to buy baby food from.

We researched to find the 17 truths of what is lurking in our baby food. But we also found five instances when moms don't need to worry about it.

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22 Sweet Tooth

Most of us are aware that sugar eats away at our tooth enamel and causes tooth decay. Store-bought baby food is often loaded with sugar. Do we want to set up our little ones with early onset tooth decay? Of course not!

The different types of sugar that can be found in baby food include glucose, lactose, sucrose, fructose, corn syrup, dextrose and rice syrup.

There are many other types of sugars, but any ingredient that ends in -ose or has syrup as part of the name is likely to be a kind of sugar.

Sugar in and of itself is not a bad thing; the body needs some sugar in order to function. The problem arises when we are getting too much sugar. Babies who are given lots of sugar tend to have a sweet tooth later in life. And baby foods with lots of sugar and nothing else don't provide the nutrition that the babies need to grow.

21 Don't Be So Salty

If too much sugar is a reason to worry, then so is too much sodium (also known as salt). That's right. Some baby food is loaded with sodium. Babies don't need to have much sodium in their diets.

According to Cleveland Clinic, too much sodium contributes to heart problems. Overloading the baby's system with sodium could cause issues for him or her early in life.

Too much salt may also have a dehydrating effect. You know how you get super thirsty after gorging on some salt-laden french fries? Babies experience the same effects.

When looking for baby food, check the salt content. Most food will always have some amount of sodium in it, and our bodies do need a little bit in order to function properly. But an overabundance of salt is dangerous in the long term and even in the short term. According to the Poison Control Center, it is possible to have sodium poisoning from too much salt.

20 Preserved For What

Does baby food need preservatives? We think not. Too many preservatives are one of the reasons that convenience foods, that we adults often indulge in, are so bad for our health. What could preservatives do to our little ones? The most common preservative used in baby food is Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid. It is an antioxidant that keeps foods from spoiling very fast.

As adults, we can handle more amounts of Vitamin C, and it can be good for our immune systems, too. But too much of a good thing is often a bad thing for infants. According to the National Institutes of Health, infants between birth to 12 months old only need 40 to 50 milligrams of Vitamin C a day that they mostly get from their mother's milk or from formula. Kids only need 15 mg of Vitamin C a day once they reach a year old.

19 So Much Junk... Not Enough Nutritional Value

Baby snacks, those snacks that we see in grocery stores labeled specifically for baby, are actually not good for the baby at all. Why?

Well, according to The Stir, baby snacks have more ingredients than actual nutritional value. It is actually better and healthier to give babies dried fruits (with no added sugars) as a snack than giving them baby puff snacks.

Snacks should also be used in moderation. It's generally a good rule of thumb to only give babies unprocessed foods as much as possible, including during snack time. Think in terms of nutritional value because the baby's first few years need to be focused on getting enough of the vitamins, minerals and proteins that they need in order to grow up healthy and strong.

18 A Chemical Concoction - Arsenic? No, Thank You

According to a study done by the Clean Label Project, so-called certified organic products had twice the level of arsenic compared to conventional baby food. The study also found that 80 percent of baby formulas contain arsenic. What is arsenic? It is a naturally occurring semi-metal that is most often found in ground water. High levels of arsenic can cause fatal consequences, though.

It is never listed as an ingredient on baby food because baby food manufacturers are not putting it into the food on purpose, but some of their processes for making baby food result in accidental high levels of arsenic in their products. There are ways that companies can mitigate this, of course, but it can be expensive for them to change how they do things; so, some companies take the risk. But should we?

17 Unleaded Or Leaded Fuel Is The Question

The Clean Label Project also found that 36 percent of baby food products contain detectable levels of lead. Lead poisoning has been in the news quite often lately, as high amounts of lead in a city's water supply can lead to long-term health effects and other social issues that should be addressed. High levels of lead can cause fatal consequences. Other problems include interference with the child's growth, their ability to learn and even their behavior.

Lead ends up in processed baby foods as a result of the soil content in which the vegetables or fruits were grown, the water that may have been used in processing and other factors.

According to Parents magazine, it might not even be possible to avoid lead even if we grow our own vegetables to make baby food.

Testing your soil and your water supply are the only way to know for sure that lead isn't in the food that you grow yourself.

16 More Than Dark Roast Coffee

Would we give our babies a cup of dark roast coffee? Of course we wouldn't. But the five worst performing baby food products were found to have nearly double a chemical called acrylamide than what is found in dark roast coffee. Yikes! Acrylamide has been linked to brain damage and cancer. According to a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, acrylamide can cause neurotoxicity in people who are exposed to it.

The Food and Chemical Toxicology journal describes acrylamide as "a monomer that can form in heated starchy food as a result of Maillard reaction" (Mojska, Gielecińska and Stoś). So, it sounds as if the process of making baby food can create acrylamide.

15 Oh No, Soy

Another carcinogenic metal that has been found lurking in baby food is cadmium.

Soy-based baby formula had seven times more cadmium than other formulas, according to the study done by the Clean Label Project.

OSHA warns about the health effects of cadmium exposure. The metal can be found naturally in small amounts inside of rocks and soil, and many batteries also use the metal because it does not corrode easily.

According to a LiveScience report, cadmium has even been used as a coloring for the red and yellow on McDonald's cups! Even small level exposure to the metal can cause kidney problems and bone softening. Cigarette smoke also contains high levels of cadmium, a reminder that we should not smoke around our children.

14 That's So Corny

If corn syrup isn't good for adults, then it is certainly not good for babies! So why do some baby formulas contain corn syrup and corn syrup solids in the ingredients? It's cheaper and makes the formula taste better, but corn syrup can cause an addiction to sugar. Dr. William Sears told Parenting magazine, "Artificial sweeteners in infant formulas can only increase the intensity of the sweet tooth that babies are already born with."

There are many debates on whether corn syrup is a worse form of sugar than regular sugar or cane sugar. But we can certainly agree that too much sugar, especially forms of processed sugar, could be a bad thing for a developing baby.

13 The Mysterious Flavor

If we look at the ingredients list on baby food, we might see a nondescript item just called "flavor." The Environmental Working Group (EWG) scores foods based on their ingredients, preservatives and processing. Those that have the mysterious ingredient called "flavor" often get dinged in their score because no one knows what that means.

It could be anything! According to the EWG's Food Scores, "added 'flavors' are secret and often complex mixtures of chemicals that modify and manipulate the taste and smell of food." Basically, it's generally a good idea to find baby food that lists all of the ingredients in understandable language. Mysterious ingredients are a risk that we shouldn't take.

12 What It's Lacking - Vitamins

It's not just what is hiding in baby food that we should be concerned about but also what is lacking in the food. Babies need nutrients in order to grow and thrive.

According to a study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, many baby foods do not meet the nutritional needs of babies. Babies are in a fast-growing stage and need to get all of their vitamins and nutrients in order to develop properly.

Baby foods that only provide them with sugar, salt and fillers are not going to be doing the important job of giving their bodies vital nutrition. Some processes for making baby food also contribute to a loss of nutritional value. Consult with a pediatrician to find out what would be a healthy meal plan for your baby and how you can incorporate fresh-made foods into their diets as they grow.

11 Those Pesky Pesticides

According to a study done by the EWG, sixteen pesticides were found in eight of the top baby food brands in a laboratory study. The pesticides include iprodione (rovral), thiabendazole, botran and permethrin. Most of these pesticides can cause cancer, illness and other health effects that we would not want our children to experience.

As adults, we also consume more pesticides than is healthy if we purchase our fruits and vegetables from the supermarket. "It is more obvious than ever that the society needs the implementation of a new agricultural concept regarding food production, which is safer for man and the environment," says a research report in the Frontiers in Public Health journal ("Chemical Pesticides and Human Health: The Urgent Need for a New Concept in Agriculture").

10 Chalk It Up

Some baby foods include an ingredient called calcium carbonate. What is this? Well, calcium carbonate is essentially chalk (naturally occurring as limestone and chalk in the earth) that is used for industrial building purposes. It can also neutralize acid and can be found in antacids for adults, according to Medline Plus.

The reason that it is put into baby food is that it is a cheap way to provide calcium. Too much calcium carbonate can cause constipation in babies.

No thanks. Not only is constipation painful, it can be fatal if left untreated, especially in little infants. When looking for a baby formula, research the ingredients and consult with your pediatrician about your concerns. Breast milk is the healthiest option, but that is not always possible for many valid reasons.

9 Oh-Em-Gee, It's MSG

Another concerning ingredient found in baby formula and baby food is MSG. MSG stands for Monosodium glutamate, which is the sodium (salt) form of glutamic acid. And glutamic acid is a non-essential amino acid. “Its ingestion can cause inflammation of the small intestine, referred to as leaky gut, which will result in symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, and abdominal pain,”  Michael Galitzer, MD, an integrative medicine specialist in Los Angeles, told Reader's Digest. 

None of that sounds good at all. Baby will be uncomfortable and in pain, which is not what we want. Look for baby food products that are MSG-free according to the label. It's also a good idea to research to see if the product truly is MSG-free like it says it is.

8 Not As Pretty As It Looks

Artificial colors are used to make food look more attractive for consumption. Some baby foods include artificial colors. According to Today's Parent, the source for those artificial colors is incredibly unappetizing: petroleum by-products or coal tar. Artificial ingredients can be harmful to a baby's system.

At the very least, a long list of artificial ingredients means that the baby formula or baby food product will not provide the necessary nutrition that our babies need in order to grow properly. Look for foods that do not use artificial coloring and other artificial ingredients.

That neon pink baby dessert might look so pretty on the shelf, but it's not a good idea to feed that product to your baby.

7 Soap In The Belly

Some baby formulas contain an ingredient called palm oil. It doesn't sound like it would be very bad, but research from the University of Iowa discovered that palm oil (also called palm olein) affects the baby's absorption of calcium because "of the formation of insoluble calcium soaps of unabsorbed palmitic acid."

Basically, it can create a soap-like substance in the baby's belly that prevents the absorption of calcium. It is also likely to be very uncomfortable for the baby. Another researcher found that palm oil can cause adverse effects, like organotoxicity of the heart. Some doctors recommend avoiding palm oil altogether. The risks are too great to regularly ingest it.

6 DHA And ARA Aren't The Cool Kids

Researchers from the Cornucopia Institute discovered that the ingredients listed as DHA and ARA in baby formula may not be so good for baby's health. DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid, and ARA refers to arachidonic acid. The Cornucopia Institute research says that the synthetic versions of DHA and ARA come from algae and fungus.

The research suggests that these are dangerous and unnecessary to add to baby formulas and have no place in them.

According to Consumer Reports, the majority of the baby formula brands in the United States contain DHA and ARA, a synthetic version of the same essential fatty acids found naturally in human breast milk. But the synthetic versions are not identical to the natural version. The FDA has still approved the use of these synthetic fatty acids in baby foods, but it might not be something that moms want for their babies after reviewing the research.

And here are 5 things moms don't need to be so concerned with...

5 No Need To Bar The Jar

Just because the baby food is bought from the store does not automatically mean that it is not safe for the baby. Baby food products are required by law to follow certain safety guidelines. The FDA is not required to approve baby formulas before they are marketed to customers, although all formulas are required to meet certain nutrition guidelines. Baby formula manufacturers also have to provide a list of their ingredients to the FDA. Any formula that does not let the FDA review its ingredients and processes may be subject to compliance actions and be taken out of the market.

But it is possible for parents to prepare their own baby food, according to Federal Food Safety. Parents who make their own baby food should follow strict safety protocols so that the food that they prepare is safe for their children to consume. Homemade baby food has the added benefit of containing many of the vital nutrients that are lost in store-bought processed baby foods.

4 What Doctors Recommend

The good news is that parents have resources, and doctors say that the choice to use store bought baby food or homemade is up to them. "The quality of processed baby food is no longer an issue,” Dr. Mona Rifka told Cleveland Clinic's Health Essentials blog.

“There are high-quality, natural baby foods on store shelves now, and most well-known brands have good safety records. But if parents want to make homemade food, it’s fine as long as they do it safely.”

A combination of store-bought baby food and homemade baby food could provide your child with a varied diet that gives them their essential nutrients and promotes their healthy development. And the occasional store-bought baby food while out and about is a great convenience for busy moms and a special treat for the baby.

3 An Honest Day's Research

As much as we would love to ensure that *everything* our babies come into contact with is safe, that is next to impossible. The most we can do is research baby foods and talk with our pediatricians. Then we make the best choice possible regarding our circumstances. Take an honest day's research to look into the various baby food options.

Once you have done your due diligence, you can be fairly sure that you don't need to worry. Some of the ingredients may be unavoidable at times, or there could be financial constraints that make it difficult to buy organic-certified baby food or make your own at home. You're still a good mom because you do care about what goes into your baby's food and you have done your best to ensure that their food is wholesome, healthy and safe.

2 The Beauty Of Fewer Ingredients

The general rule of thumb for what we feed our babies (and ourselves) is that simple, straight-forward ingredients that we can pronounce tend to be healthier.

A baby food item that has only three, recognizable ingredients is definitely better than a baby food that has 20 ingredients with long, complex names.

Sometimes we don't have the time to intensely research a brand of baby food, so using this method can make the selection much easier. It's still important to consider your baby's reactions to certain foods and even their preferences. Choosing the baby foods with fewer ingredients means that your baby is getting better quality ingredients and more of the vital nutrients that he or she needs for growth and development.

1 At The End Of The Day

At the end of the day, we want what is best for our children. Know what to look for when shopping for baby food, know how to prepare baby food safely at home and stay in touch with the baby's doctor in order to ensure that the baby has the healthiest start that he or she can get in life.

Feeding our babies the food that they need for life is part of being a parent, and it is an important part. What we feed them can set them up for life. We have done our best research and now it is time to enjoy being with our kids, watching them laugh and smile and seeing them grow up into the people that we helped to raise.

References: clevelandclinic.org, thestir.cafemom.com, cleanlabelproject.org, medicalnewstoday.com, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, osha.gov, parenting.com, ewg.org, adc.bmj.comima-na.org, medineplus.gov, westonaprice.org, rd.com, todaysparent.comcornucopia.org, foodsafety.gov, fda.gov, gerber.com, poison.org, livestrong.com, ods.od.nih.gov, parents.com, sciencedirect.com, livescience.com, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, mskcc.org

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