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Do You REALLY Know What's In That Baby Food Pouch?

food-pouch
I was stoked when my son started solids. It meant he was inching his way toward toddlerdom, plus it would give my boobs a little break. Overachiever that I am, I tackled DIY baby food with a fervor once reserved for sample sale shopping. I bought a ridiculously powerful food processor, found some recipes, loaded up on fruits, veggies, and quinoa, and started cooking—for exactly one month.

Then I discovered these fabulous little food pouches that would let me outsource mealtime guilt-free. The manufacturers had better, healthier-sounding recipes than I did—leeks! millet! zucchini!—and more importantly, my kid loved them. In fact, he couldn't guzzle the stuff fast enough. That they fit easily into my overstuffed bag was yet another reason to fork over my hard-earned money for them. Problem solved, right?

Eh, not so much. The super sleuths at Good Morning America recently investigated what exactly is in these magical food bags—well, in Plum Organics'—and their findings might pierce the happy bubble many of us pouch-loving parents have been living in. As it turns out, the healthy, pre-made meals are sort of like a mullet: All organic-and-super-grain business on the front label, and an applesauce-and-water party on the back label.

Take, for example, Plum's Quinoa and Leeks with Chicken and Tarragon. Sounds pretty yummy, right? But the main three ingredients are water, carrot puree, and sweet potato puree. Huh? (Chicken and quinoa are sixth and seventh on the list.) Another red flag? The manufacturer is adding apple puree to many a pouch, yet it appears nowhere in the products' name.

Whoa.

Plum, naturally, has explanations. Reps told GMA that pouch names are "based on the flavor of the final product," and that the labels meet all legal requirements. Water is used to strike a thin, baby-friendly consistency, and apples are brought in for their texture, mild taste, and acidity (and most certainly not for their addictively sweet taste).

Not surprisingly, not everyone is happy with the alleged bait-and-switch. The FDA reiterated that labels must be truthful and not misleading, while the consumer advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest is demanding that the baby food maker give the "deceptive marketing" tricks a break. Though Plum is in the crosshairs here, it's worth noting that other companies are using similar labeling practices. In fact, CPSI also sent a notification to Gerber over its labeling practices. Your best bet? Always check the nutrition information and list of ingredients on the back (they're listed in order of quantity).

Now, do these findings scare me off of pouches for good? Not quite—but their role has changed from a halfway-decent meal substitute to an on-the-go treat. How about you? Will you still buy food pouches for your baby? Tell us in the comments below.

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Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

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Image of baby eating courtesy of Shutterstock