Gross, Surprising, and All-Around Weird Facts About Baby Food

Commercial baby food did not exist until the 1920s, and if you're wondering what babies ate before then, they simply ate foods prepared at home or soft canned foods. When a mother who got tired of making baby food at home thought up the concept of baby food that came from factories, a booming industry was born.

But there are a lot of gross things about baby food when you really look closely at it. The gross factor goes way beyond the mushy texture. This list contains facts about baby food, including how baby food is made, and you might be surprised at what's in those little jars. It's no surprise that there's now a movement to start making baby food at home again. Take a look at these baby food facts and see why.

  • One of the First Flavors Was Liver Soup

    Gerber thought liver soup was a great baby food, because the taste was "pleasingly bland," and liver is rich in vitamins and iron. Liver might be a nutritious food, but whether its taste is "pleasingly bland" is questionable.

  • It's Only Half as Nutritious as Homemade Baby Food

    A study that came out in 2013 concluded that store-bought baby foods only provide about half the nutrients that homemade meals for babies provide. This makes sense when you think about it; it's pretty much universally acknowledged that fresh foods are healthier for adults than processed foods.

  • Rice Cereal Could Lead to Obesity

    White rice cereal is often the first food given to babies after breast milk or formula, but Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician at Stanford University, is trying to change that. Greene argues that white rice cereal is "basically like feeding kids a spoonful of sugar." Greene thinks that this encourages children to develop a taste for unhealthy processed grains with no fiber, like white rice, white bread, and white pasta.

  • It Has a Lot of Unnecessary Ingredients

    It's common for baby food manufacturers to add rice flour or corn flour to their products to thicken them. Additionally, water is listed as the first ingredient in a lot of baby foods. While some water is necessary to puree solid food, using it as the primary ingredient deprives the food of nutritional value.

  • The Labels Might Be Exaggerating

    The Labels Might Be Exaggerating
    Photo: Robert S. Donovan / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Heinz' Cheesy Pasta with Ham baby food actually only contains 5 percent ham. Cow & Gate (a British brand) makes a Chicken Sunday Lunch baby food which contains only 10 percent chicken. It might not technically be false advertising, but it is misleading.

  • Some Baby Food Used to Contain MSG

    Some Baby Food Used to Contain MSG
    Photo: kattebelletje / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Until around 1970, baby food made by Heinz, Beechnut, and Gerber had MSG added to it. MSG is essentially just a flavor enhancer, but there is evidence to suggest that it causes obesity and other health problems. Some watchdogs think baby food manufacturers are still sneaking MSG into their products under different names on the ingredient labels, but this is entirely unproven.