Blog: Baby food recipes in spotlight in US
Dean Best | 22 May 2015
The make-up of the ingredients in baby food in the US is under some scrutiny, with Campbell Soup Co. and Nestle attracting criticism from consumer watchdogs.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has told the two companies it will launch legal action if they do no stop what the group calls "deceptive labelling".
According to the CSPI, Campbell's Plum Organics arm is "misrepresenting the presence and proportions of its baby food ingredients".
Nestle's Gerber arm is "bulking up" products with ingredients like pear juice and apple juice.
A rival baby food manufacturer this week won praise from the CSPI for its move to list the proportion of its ingredients online. Beech-Nut has listed the percentage of each ingredient for its jars and pouches on its website.
"Plum and Gerber are cheating parents financially, and robbing kids nutritionally, with these elaborate bait-and-switch schemes," CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson said. "If they were actually proud of the major ingredients in their products, wouldn’t they name them on the front of their packages?"
The CSPI said, for example, the kale puree in Plum’s Kale, Apple & Greek Yoghurt is the fourth ingredient behind apple puree, water, and pasteurized yoghurt.
The watchdog pointed to Gerber's 2nd Foods Banana Peach Granola and 2nd Foods Pear Blueberry Oatmeal lines, which, it says, use apple juice, an ingredient not mentioned or pictured on the fronts of the labels.
Jacobson's said Beech-Nut's decision - albeit not for its labels - is "a terrific move".
"It shows the company has nothing to hide. It makes sense for Beech-Nut to call its organic Banana, Mango, & Sweet Potatoes baby food by that name since it contains 50% bananas, 30% mangoes, and 20% sweet potatoes. Likewise, its Corn, Kale, & Spinach baby food contains just those ingredients in just that order. That’s how products should be labeled."
Speaking to just-food, Plum insisted it had "complete confidence in the accuracy of our naming conventions/labels and that they meet regulatory and other legal requirements".
The company said: "All of our ingredients serve a purpose and what is reflected on the label of our pouches, is directly reflected in our recipes. To bring an on-the-go, shelf-stable fruit & veggie pouch to market, we need to create recipes that have a certain pH level, making the purees safe to eat. For this reason, some of our recipes use organic apples and organic pears as a base because of their appropriate texture, mild taste and acidity. This is not dissimilar to other baby food purees on the market.
Separately, when necessary, we use water in our food – largely to make the food safe for baby– just like you would thin a homemade puree at home for mealtime. Similarly, because we use organic grains and veggies in some of our recipes, we need to keep them hydrated so they remain the right consistency. Again, this is not dissimilar to other baby food purees."
Plum has asked the CSPI for a meeting.
In a statement provided to just-food, Nestle said: "Gerber utilises ingredient order of predominance when naming fruit and vegetable products including our pouches and tub products. For example, if pears are listed first on the front label panel, then pears are the first fruit ingredient declared in the list of ingredients. For recipes with more ingredients, such as Lasagna with Meat Sauce, we typically utilise traditional names commonly recognised by consumers."
Beech-Nut's vice president for marketing, Andy Dahlen, told just-food said it had been considering its move "for some time" but added: "With recent news coverage citing poor labelling practices in the baby food category, we felt it was necessary to highlight that mom should know exactly what she is giving her baby when she feeds a Beech-Nut product to her child."
Dahlen said the company was weighing up whether to add the information to labels. "Label changes require a significant time to adjust, but it is something we are currently considering. We wanted to give parents instant access to our products’ ingredient percentage which is why we issued them on our website first."
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