Monday, April 28, 2014

What we can learn from baby food

During the week I am not as diligent about reading the newspaper as I used to be. Part of it is the busy monster we all talk about (too much) but it’s more that I love the “real” paper we only receive on the weekends. This past weekend, other than the horrible story of the girl killed in her school hallway the day of junior prom, what first caught my attention was a series letters to the editor about salt.
In response to an article that I must’ve missed during most letters called the FDA out. One, from a pediatrician, asked “for how much longer will our country allow the producers of highly processed foods to cause heart attacks and strokes by force feeding us so much salt?” A couple other letters contained more of the same blame. And then finally one brief comment expressed what I had been thinking, it said “there is a solution to this problem that is often overlooked: home cooking. It is healthier, cheaper and additive free.” I wanted to hug this Allison Eisner who wrote the article.
Trust me, I am horrified by the FDA’s actions. Every week I read about an ingredient or pesticide banned by the European commission but permitted here. Innocent until proven guilty when it comes to our food is not something I support. But rather than bitch and moan (which I’m pretty good at) an article in the Business section supported Allison’s suggestion.
The article focused on baby food. Since 2005, mothers in droves have been making their own baby food. In turn, sales of commercial food have been falling. Now you’ll find Beechnut, hardly a  cutting edge brand, with quinoa and pomegranate and fewer preservatives. And there are an abundance of new companies in this sector that had stellar ingredients from the get go.
I know from my practice that there are no more motivated clients than pregnant women and new moms. Women who had never opened their registry pots and pans will make baby food when the time comes or forego sweeteners while pregnant for the sake of their babies. However, if and when we make these changes on behalf of ourselves, when we stop buying sodium bombs and convenience foods- the companies will have to follow suit.
If you don’t think it’s worth speaking up, I’ll give you a recent example why you should. It came to our attention that a supplement we endorse contained caramel coloring. We let the company know (ok we tweeted to them) we were concerned. Fairly quickly they let us (and the rest of the Twittersphere) know they were reformulating.
I’m happy to play bash the FDA but I think we’re better off showing the companies that go the extra mile our love by purchasing their goods and like my girl Allison suggested above taking control of our food by cooking more at home.
What do you think, should the FDA take a stance on sodium and additives or do we have to take matters into our own hands?
FYI  I received this interesting sodium visual which is relevant to the subject matter above.


  1. The FDA SHOULD do a lot of things that they don't do. They have not been looking out for our best interests when it comes to food for a very long time my opinion. We have to take matters into our own hands, read labels, investigate, and vote with our dollars.

  2. You always write the best articles! Here in the states, home cooking is a leisure or as hobby while it should be a necessity! but the does not make the FDA an innocent , they should be more affirmative with cutting out sodium and additives

  3. Thank you Farida, so glad you enjoy the posts. Agreed, cooking shouldn't be purely fun but something we all do like brush our teeth (that makes it sound tedious but you know) and yes FDA not off the hook but we can't sit around waiting for them to keep us healthy.

  4. Great post, thanks Lauren. My favorite part of the baby food article in the Times was the Beechnut exec calling the trend of mom's making homemade baby food "pernicious". And I completely agree that we are missing the point by mandating less sodium in packaged foods. The real solution is to cook, and as you say, do it on a daily basis. It's just a routine part of life -- doesn't need to be fancy.

  5. I don't see why we can't take a double pronged approach, and do our part as consumers while we wait around for the FDA to force the food companies to do the right thing and band additives, etc. I will say from my years working in the pharmaceutical industry that in my (admittedly limited) experience, the people working for the FDA were far less impressive than those working for the European agency. My understanding is that in Europe it's more of a prestigious job whereas here it's a $40k/year job and more entry level. Says something about how much we value the oversight.

  6. thank you for sharing, it's really embarrassing when you look at how additives, food labeling is handled there versus here.

  7. Wow, that's the pot calling the mother "pernicious". I'm with other commenters- FDA isn't off hook they need to be less casual in what's in and out of our foods but we I don't feel like I can call them out if I'm not cooking and going the extra mile to be sure my family/I are healthy.