News that hugely popular baby food brands Plum Organic and Gerber were accused by a non-profit consumer watchdog of deceptive marketing over product ingredients has distressed some mothers in Singapore.
“Plum Organics boasts of healthful and trendy ingredients such as kale, quinoa, blackberry and Greek yoghurt on labels of its baby food pouches, when in fact the pouches typically contain cheaper and less nutritious apple puree or even water as the first ingredients,” reads the press release from the U.S.-based Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) issued on May 13.
The release alleged that Plum Organics, which is owned by Campbell, had "deceived" customers by "misrepresenting the presence and proportions of its baby food ingredients".
As an example, the CSPI cited a pouch of Plum’s Kale, Apple and Greek Yoghurt as deceiving as the first three main ingredients, which make up the bulk of the pouch were apple puree, water, and pasteurized yoghurt with no healthy live bacteria.
“Plum is cynically exploiting parents’ desire to get the best for their babies,” said CSPI litigation director Maia Kats. “In most cases, these baby food pouches are filled with cheap, watered down apple puree—and only have token amounts of the specified kale or blueberry or quinoa.”
“Plum and Gerber are cheating parents financially, and robbing kids nutritionally, with these elaborate bait-and-switch schemes,” CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said. “If they were actually proud of the major ingredients in their products, wouldn’t they name them on the front of their packages?”
Gerber is also accused by the group of "bulking up" its Lasagna with Meat Sauce food pouches with inexpensive pear juice and apple juice in other similar products.
Plum Organics and Gerber have a strong following in Singapore, where they retail in most major supermarkets for between $4 to $6 for a 113g food pouch.
The press release has sparked anger and shock among Singaporean parents, some of whom have taken to sharing it on baby-focused Facebook pages like “Healthy Food for my Baby” spread awareness about CSPI's allegations.
“I’m really disappointed, I don’t know how many pouches of this food I have already fed my baby girl thinking that it is organic and very nutritious. I thought it was a reputable brand,” posted marketing executive Connie Teo, 34, on her Facebook page after sharing the link.
“You pay a premium and you still get peanuts. How horrible can these big corporations be, fooling around with baby food? Many mums I know pay extra for a so-called premium brand because they are too busy to prepare food. Disgusting,” posted parent Nurain Hussein, 27, who says she often buys the pouches when the family travels.
“Now you know – read your labels – these companies are only required to list the ingredients in order of the quantity, but there is no information on the actual percentage,” posted food nutritionist Audrey D’Souza on her Facebook wall.
A Plum Organics spokesman told MyFoxBoston.com that the company has "complete confidence in its labels and that they meet regulatory requirements" and that water is a "main ingredient needed to hydrate food and make it the right consistency for babies".