Mums heap pressure on themselves because a quarter (23%) are sceptical about manufactured baby food, and two in five (39%) are concerned about added salt or ‘nasties’, like preservatives. The research marks the launch of an independent report, released today, which seeks to expose the truth about one of the baby food industry’s biggest producers.
Lifting the Lid on Baby Foods, which is published today and written by Fiona Wilcock, independent public health nutritionist and food writer, investigates food practices by Cow & Gate. The report examines the manufacturing process, from field to production line to babies’ spoons, following the journey of a jar and detailing what is involved in making it.
Forty one million jars of Cow & Gate baby food are sold every year and every jar meets the rigorous ‘baby grade’ standards, finds Wilcock; “Baby foods had a poor reputation in the past so it’s hardly surprising mums and dads are worried. But my report uncovered that there are no dubious ingredients you might have suspected in today’s baby food. Stringent standards, put in place by Cow & Gate, ensure baby foods are real food made from the best ingredients.”
The organic debate
Almost a fifth (18%) of mums will only feed their baby organic food because they believe this to be better quality food, and one in ten (9%) of those surveyed said they believe manufactured baby food contains pesticides. However, today’s report reveals that there are practically no pesticides residues in baby foods. The maximum permitted level of residues in any baby food is 10 parts per billion, which is equal to approximately one drop of water in two Olympic size swimming pools. It’s a little known fact that pesticides, albeit from natural origin, can be used on organic crops and that they can still carry the organic label. This finding negates the argument for only feeding babies with organic food and gives Wilcock the confidence to state; “In my opinion, they are certainly not inferior to organic foods, and could even, in some instances, be better.”
The survey reveals that more than two thirds (68%) of mums feed their babies manufactured baby food, yet less than one in ten (7%) feels confident that it’s good quality. This is why Cow & Gate encouraged Wilcock to investigate what goes on behind the scenes, to dispel the myths surrounding manufactured baby food and reassure mums of the quality of their products. Wilcock says; “I was astonished to learn about the extra commitment and requirements needed to reach the baby grade standard. I now think that even if I bought the highest quality ingredients, organic or not, I couldn’t match the degree of quality assurance that Cow & Gate baby foods have.”
Baby grade ingredients
From apple orchards in the Czech Republic to beef farming in Ireland, the report outlines the measures taken to ensure all baby food is made from baby grade ingredients, which have to adhere to strict guidelines. These ingredients go through multiple safety tests and have to be completely traceable. Farms are chosen where the food will grow best, away from sources of pollution, and where an absolute minimum of pesticides are used. Each step of the food journey is controlled and managed to the extent that every ingredient can be traced back to an individual field.
Dr Pavel Hejzlar, apple expert for Cow & Gate, comments; “We say it takes at least 18 months to learn how to become a baby food farmer. We work with farmers we’ve developed long term relationships with, people we know and trust. Quality and safety, at every level, is our primary concern. ”
Over a third of mums (36%) surveyed said manufactured baby food tastes bland. Wilcock says; “It’s sometimes easy to forget that we have an adult palate and have grown used to food to which we’ve added salt, sugar or flavoured sauces.” Wilcock’s report reveals that the adult food tasters at Cow & Gate have to be trained to re-educate their palates and some of them have talked of their reduced tolerance for salt and sugar in their own diet, as a result of testing baby foods.
Wilcock sums her report up by concluding that Cow & Gate manufactured baby food is made from top quality baby grade ingredients and does not contain ‘nasties’. She concludes that parents should have confidence in Cow & Gate and the care it takes turning great ingredients into great meals for babies.
To read Wilcock’s report in full visit www.cowandgate.co.uk/liftingthelid
Top research findings;
- 68% of mums have fed their baby manufactured baby food yet only 7% feel confident that the food is of good quality
- 39% of mums feel judged for using manufactured baby food and 21% feel like a bad mum for using it
- 23% of mums feel sceptical about using manufactured baby food because they don’t know what goes in it, and 39% are concerned about added salt or ‘nasties’, like preservatives and colourings, which may be present
- 19% of mums feel that manufactured baby food is a necessity but wish they could do better for their child
- 18% of mums will only feed their baby organic food and 9% of those surveyed said they believe manufactured baby food contains a lot of pesticides
- Babies are more likely to be fed manufactured baby food in Worcester (100%), Chelmsford (100%) and Brighton & Hove (90%). They are least likely to be fed manufactured baby food in London (58%), Aberdeen (58%) and Coventry (54%)
- Mums in Gloucester (42%) and Brighton & Hove (45%) are most judgemental when they see other mums feed their children baby food. Mums in Swansea (7%) and York (9%) are less judgemental
- Older mums (45+) are more likely to feed their child organic food
[i] Nielsen data MAT. Data w/e 2nd May 2012