I love the Internet. It really makes this whole organic mom thing a lot easier. We get a lot of questions through this blog that are more tips than questions, queries that give us greater understanding of what other trying-to-be organic moms are coming up against. Some of this information from the front lines is news to us. One such email came in recently. I have edited lightly:
I am wondering if you are aware of a reformulation of Earth's Best Dairy Formula. I just bought three of the 25 oz cans (I used to buy the 13 oz) and I noticed the first ingredients listed are no longer Organic Lactose, Organic Nonfat Milk. The ingredients are as follows: Organic Reduced Minerals Whey, Organic Vegetable Oils (palm or palm olein, high oleic (safflower or sunflower), coconut, soy,) Organic Nonfat Milk, Organic Lactose, etc. Does this mean that the formula is now predominately whey and oils rather than milk? I am a bit disturbed by the reformulation without any noticeable change in packaging. Could this be some attempt for Hain Celestial to save money while producing an inferior product? I am a little concerned about the quality of this formula now.
Please let me know your thoughts.
Stephani E. in the San Francisco Bay Area
I suggested Stephani contact them herself, and said that I'd also get in touch with them and see what I could find out. In the meantime, regarding the nutrition concern, I said she could look into Baby's Only, which is marketed as a toddler formula (mainly because the company is trying to encourage breastfeeding for younger tots) but contains what any formula should contain. Showing an ingredient list to your pediatrician before offering a formula to your child is always a good idea.
Before I had a chance to call Earth's Best, Stephani had already written me again. She had spoken to a customer service rep who said she didn't know of any reformulation. When Stephani read her the label ingredients, the rep confirmed that there was a change made in June. Odd. Stephani wrote me (again, lightly edited):
I told her how disturbing it was to me that #1 She did not know immediately that there had been a change and had I not read her the ingredients, she may not have informed me of the change-to which she replied that they have "thousands of products and she had to look it up first." #2 I remarked that I felt deceived by the company that they had not informed consumers of this change and the packaging remained exactly the same except for the list of ingredients. All of this on the heels of the DHA/ARA controversy bothers me. Also, the ingredients list on the website has not been updated to reflect the new formulation which shows at the very least that the company does not care to inform consumers of changes in a timely way. This is not acceptable to me. I think most people who choose organic formula for their children would agree, we put a lot of thought and intention into making sure that our children receive the very best quality foods-for the sake of their health. We spend considerable time and (a lot of) money trying to make informed and responsible choices for our children. The very least a company like Hain Celestial could do is to inform us when they change a product so as the parents of these children, we can make the choice as to whether or not to continue use of their product...As for me, I am so offended by Hain and their inconsiderate treatment, I will be consulting my pediatrician about discontinuing formula altogether and switching to cow's milk. I have been using this product since my daughter (now 2 1/2) was born-way back when it was Horizon Organic. That was before they added DHA/ARA and I feel the quality has continued to decline over the last few years. (Has a fishy odor, tastes worse, and now the first ingredients are whey and oil!) What I once recommended wholeheartedly to friends, sadly I am now reluctant to use myself ... I will certainly ask my pediatrician if he thinks mineral whey and oil are a better source of nutrition than milk.
Once again, before I could get to the phone, Stephani emailed. She did get another call from a customer relations person from Earth's Best, asking a few questions about the product packaging, and informing her she might get another call or letter from a higher up. This is my kind of mom! Unfortunately, she never did hear from them again.
But I did. Journalist credentials tend to illicit different answers but in this case, what I was told is pretty similar to what the customer reps told Stephani. Below is an email from Lisa Lehndorff, The Hain Celestial Group's Director of Corporate Consumer Relations:
"Our Earth's Best(r) infant formulations are registered with, and approved by, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and comply with all regulations and strict nutritional guidelines. Specific ingredients may change from time-to-time due to availability and sourcing. All ingredients must comply with the FDA requirements and the nutritional values remain the same and conform to strict FDA regulations, as does the labeling.
Regarding the website, it is presently being updated to show the single ingredient change. As stated above ingredients can change but formulation and nutrition are the same and all are regulated by the FDA. Our website does include the following to inform consumers of the possible variance. This statement appears under the ingredient table:
"The most accurate information is always on the label on the actual product. We periodically update our labels based on new nutritional analysis to verify natural variations from crop to crop and at times formula revisions. The website does not necessarily get updated at the same time. The values on the website are intended to be a general guide to consumers. For absolute values, the actual label on the product at hand should be relied on."
As of now, their website does contain the old ingredient list and certainly this corporate statement doesn't refer specifically to the nutritional value of oil/whey over milk. Or even answer why they changed it. That's unfortunately what happens when you're getting food from an outside contractor. I know I'll get beat up for writing it but it's true.
Besides this exchange from Stephani, I've been getting a lot of emails lately from parents that are along similar lines -- people fed up with not knowing what companies are putting in formula or packaged baby foods and beyond. I understand their anger. It's maddening. The only way to truly know what is in what you're feeding your infants is to breastfeed exclusively (if you can, I of course know there are many women and adoptive parents who can't) and make fresh, organic whole foods instead of serving them packaged foods once they're on solids. I suspect I'll get some angry comments about that one too, but say what you will: I am also a very, very busy mom with a job and no nanny, and have made the time to do both. There will still be a certain unknown (breastmilk and even organic fruits and veggies can be contaminated), but at least you're in charge of the ingredients.
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