Up-market baby food in focus

All baby foods are not created equal.
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  • Updated:23 Feb 2007

01.Up-market baby food

Baby eating

We’ve put up-market, gourmet, and organic baby food for the under 1s under the microscope to see how they stack up.

There are differences in how they’re processed, how convenient they are in different situations – and how much vegies, meat and fruit they contain.

All the baby foods we assessed meet the requirements of the Foods Standards Code – but we think mothers want foods for their babies to go even further than simply what’s required. Some brands give you all the information about the amounts of the ingredients they contain, some stick to what they have to disclose. We’d like to see all manufacturers go the extra mile when it comes to their baby food labels.

Please note: this information was current as of February 2007 but is still a useful guide to today's market.

Results summary

  • Ingredients: Only some brands tell you everything about the amount of each ingredient they contain – some just give the percentage of main ingredients or just those they are required to reveal. The brands that tell it all like it is are: Baby boost; Organix; Little tummy tucker; and Motherly.
  • Thickeners and water: You might expect these more expensive brands to ditch thickeners and only use water when starchy vegetables or rice and pasta otherwise would make the product too thick. But some brands use maize starch or flour – the manufacturers of these brands say they use it for aesthetic and texture reasons. Many of the other brands include ground rice or rice flour as an ingredient, which will thicken the product as well. The no thickener, and no rice flour/ground rice (unless rice/cereal is included in the name) brands are: Baby boost; Babynat; Little tummy tucker; Motherly; and Organix. Some other brands only include rice flour or ground rice in puddings or desserts.
  • Labelling: Don’t take the product name as an exact description of what you’ll find inside when you check the fine print. Many brands include ingredients you’d never guess just from checking out the name, for example, one variety of pureed peaches contains 15% apple, and a product called Pumpkin fine contains rice as well as pumpkin.
  • Additives: Baby foods are restricted in the additives they can contain — vitamin C is often added, to make up for losses in processing and it acts as an antioxidant. You won’t find additives such as preservatives, colours and flavours in any foods for babies under 12 months.
  • Sugars and salt: Sugars can be added to baby foods, but in practice you generally won’t find added sugars except in some desserts, such as custards and yoghurt desserts. If more than 4% sugars are added, the label must say it’s ‘sweetened’. The amount of salt baby foods can contain is limited — no more than 100 mg of sodium per 100 grams in meat, vegie and fruit baby food. We found most brands and varieties were much lower — generally less than 20 mg per 100 g.
  • Safety on the go: Because baby market is dominated by the jar or can — we’ve come to think of it as pretty indestructible. You can toss it in your bag and open it later in the day with no ill effects. But chilled or frozen foods need to be treated with more care — you need to keep them cold if you’re taking them with you on the run. All baby foods must be kept in the fridge once they’re opened.
  • Processing: Not all baby foods have the same degree of processing — the lighter the processing (heat treatment) the more heat-sensitive vitamins are retained. Jars, cans and shelf-stable containers have the highest level of heat treatment. Chilled products with long shelf lives in the fridge come next, for example Baby boost. Chilled products with only short shelf lives, for example Little tummy tucker, and products which must be kept frozen, for example Motherly cubes are the least heat treated.
  • Variety: Introducing your baby to a wide variety of foods over time is important. Some brands are limited in the variety on offer, so a mix and match approach - combined with your own home-made - is best. Experts have described commercial baby foods as "convenience foods for babies" - so choosing wisely and using it when it's convenient, but basing your baby's diet on your own healthy home foods is a good approach.
  • Texture: It’s important that babies are gradually given foods with coarser textures. When you introduce more roughly mashed, rather than pureed food depends on your baby’s individual development, but keeping them on finely pureed, or soft uniformly textured foods for too long causes problems later. Speech pathologists are the health professionals which can help with swallowing difficulties and fussy eating brought on by not introducing lumpier textures soon enough. Speech Pathology Australia says that for normal babies, you should be moving onto lumpier foods no later than 10 months of age. If you are concerned about your baby's ability to deal with eating more textured food, you can find a paediatric speech pathologist through your doctor or baby health centre.


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