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Old 12-01-2013, 07:03 AM
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Onion powder in baby food

From this Yahoo news fluff (heh) piece on what NOT to feed your cat: http://shine.yahoo.com/pets/7-foods-...133100564.html Cats shouldn't be fed human baby food, because it may contain onion powder. My WTF? moment is ... why do we put onion powder in human baby food? I've tasted baby food, its uniformly bland, as suits infant taste preferences (just try and feed them something flavorful -- they react as if you just dabbed their lips with Play-doh.)

So what's the point of onion powder in baby food? Is it to gradually train children to develop a palate for seasoned food? Do infants react to food that's too bland, as opposed to barely bland? Some sort of processing reason i.e. the meant and vegetables have to be cooked with onion powder to digest it or something? Some sort of human infant trace nutritional requirement in onion and garlic powder? And what would that be -- again, a digestive effect, maybe?

Last edited by Arkcon; 12-01-2013 at 07:04 AM. Reason: stupid autocorrect -- palate not plate
Old 12-01-2013, 07:44 AM
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Baby food tastes bland to you because it is unsalted. That aside, babies will develop tastes for different flavours once they start on solid foods (with one of my children, it was cheesy parsnip bake) - and like most humans, babies enjoy variety - so onion powder can help to make the food interesting and different.
Old 12-01-2013, 08:23 AM
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It also seems to have SOME nutritional value. It could also be that it helps to achieve a better texture, weight or density. And it will add SOME taste as well. I wonder if baby food in India has curry or pepper, for instance...
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Old 12-01-2013, 09:52 AM
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What the hell does "may" contain onion powder mean. There's an easy way to tell if meat baby food contains onion powder... read the ingredients. It ain't rocket surgery.

Gerber meat baby foods do not contain onion powder, and neither do Beech-nut meat baby foods. I'm not talking about the "yummy beef stew" style baby foods - I'm referring to the jars that are just meat being meat. The ingredients in Gerber "Chicken & Chicken gravy" are: GROUND CHICKEN, WATER, CORNSTARCH. There's no "may" about whether it contains onion powder. It doesn't.

What kind of shitty off-brand baby food are people buying? You have to search a lot of grocery stores to find a meat baby food that ISN'T Gerber or Beechnut.

Last edited by Hello Again; 12-01-2013 at 09:54 AM.
Old 12-01-2013, 11:08 AM
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At 15 months, my daughter's favorite food in the world was buffalo wings. I used to take her to Costco to pig out on buffalo wings and freak out the sample ladies.

The notion that infants need or want bland food is balderdash. The only good reason for baby food to be bland is that it may be a good idea for it to be simple - single ingredient foods can help you identify anything that might be causing irritation or allergic reactions as you're building up their repertoire. But there's no reason red pepper or onion powder shouldn't be included once you know they can tolerate chicken.

That being said - stupid tip. Much more useful would have been, "check the labels and don't give your cats baby food with onion powder in it."
Old 12-01-2013, 11:10 AM
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Meh, Hello Again: I described it as a Yahoo news fluff piece. It would be simpler to say, "Don't feed pets anything other than pet food" But I guess it lacked the panache. Or I guess people have lots of old baby food around, and feed it to the animals rather than discard it. Still, like you said, onion powder is kinda a weird ingredient for infant food. For me to visualize, at least.
Old 12-01-2013, 01:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhyNot View Post
The notion that infants need or want bland food is balderdash. The only good reason for baby food to be bland is that it may be a good idea for it to be simple - single ingredient foods can help you identify anything that might be causing irritation or allergic reactions as you're building up their repertoire. But there's no reason red pepper or onion powder shouldn't be included once you know they can tolerate chicken.
It's also about the salt. Infants just can't deal with the levels of salt in food that adults can - there have been cases of babies dying because they were given food made from breakfast cereals intended for adults. Unsalted food is often perceived as bland (or to put it another way, the foods that adults typically consider tasty are often salty)
Old 12-01-2013, 04:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hello Again View Post
The ingredients in Gerber "Chicken & Chicken gravy" are: GROUND CHICKEN, WATER, CORNSTARCH.
Needs onions.
Old 12-01-2013, 07:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Mangetout View Post
It's also about the salt. Infants just can't deal with the levels of salt in food that adults can - there have been cases of babies dying because they were given food made from breakfast cereals intended for adults. Unsalted food is often perceived as bland (or to put it another way, the foods that adults typically consider tasty are often salty)
Do you have any more information on that? It was never mentioned in any of my nutrition or pediatrics classes. That seems like quite a sensational cause of death that would be mentioned.

It's often recommended in popular literature that we watch the baby's sodium intake, just like our own. But salt (rather, sodium) is a necessary component for cellular growth, and babies who lack it fail to grow until you give it to them.

There is no upper limit DRI for sodium in infants, although there is a minimum.
Old 12-01-2013, 07:48 PM
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Pet* peeve: this article is from vetstreet.com Some Yahoo articles are original, and some are reposted from elsewhere. E.g. (random articles currently on the feed) this is from ABC News. This is Yahoo!


*Pun not initially intended, but damn that works well!
Old 12-02-2013, 03:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhyNot View Post
Do you have any more information on that? It was never mentioned in any of my nutrition or pediatrics classes. That seems like quite a sensational cause of death that would be mentioned.
Here's some information about it (on a baby food manufacturer site):
http://heinzbaby.co.uk/ask-our-e...t-cereals.aspx

Here's a news story about a baby that died from being fed adult foods:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/404667.stm

Quote:
It's often recommended in popular literature that we watch the baby's sodium intake, just like our own. But salt (rather, sodium) is a necessary component for cellular growth, and babies who lack it fail to grow until you give it to them.

There is no upper limit DRI for sodium in infants, although there is a minimum.
I'm not suggesting babies should have zero sodium intake (there is salt in breast milk - at the right concentration - I'm saying that foods prepared for adults often have too much.

Quite apart from any physiological differences between babies and adults, adults can usually determine that they just ate something too salty and get a drink.
Old 12-02-2013, 07:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Mangetout View Post
Here's some information about it (on a baby food manufacturer site):
http://heinzbaby.co.uk/ask-our-e...t-cereals.aspx
Forgive me if I take a baby food manufacturer's uncited claim with...well...you know...
Quote:
Here's a news story about a baby that died from being fed adult foods:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/404667.stm
Oh, those poor parents! Honestly, that's horrible, and I feel for them. But I will also point out that 3 months is below the recommended age for any foods other than breastmilk or formula, and even that article points out that death by salt is "extremely rare" and "severely restricting salt, which occurs naturally in many foods, can also cause problems."

I've been poking around trying to find more information about the dangers of salt for infants, and so far I've found this story, one of two nurses who administered too much sodium to a preemie IV, and two stories of parents who intentionally poisoned their children with many teaspoons of table salt. This leads me to conclude that the risks were overblown in your local media in response to a truly bizarre and tragic accident, or it was another example of poisoning that the investigation missed.
Quote:
Quite apart from any physiological differences between babies and adults, adults can usually determine that they just ate something too salty and get a drink.
Well, that's certainly true. However, infants do have a perfectly functioning thirst mechanism and alarm system, if they're healthy. If they are being breastfed and drink for thirst, the foremilk is watery and contains less sodium than the hindmilk, to help dilute the salt in the infant's body. If they're on formula, well, that's a problem. Formula presents lots of problems, and this is one of them; you're not supposed to give bottles of water as it may fill them up without nutrients, but if they get thirsty, you have nothing to give them except calories they may not need.

Please note that I'm not saying we should salt our baby food or feed them adult cereal or buffalo wings as a primary part of their diet. We probably shouldn't. They should be eating breastmilk, with food added as exploration and learning around 6 months, but still mostly getting their nutrition from breastmilk for a full year (which, strangely enough, exceeds the AI all on its own, leading me to wonder what reasoning or research they based the AI on). But salt/sodium in moderation is not generally going to kill infants, and breakfast cereal doesn't routinely do that.
Old 12-02-2013, 07:50 AM
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It should be noted that what is generically described as "infant food" may actually be designed for much older children than actual infants. They all come in jars but there are degrees of texture and increasing complexity of ingredients and more sophisticated flavours for older children. It is quite conceivable that an article is written denouncing "infant food" when the product they are actually referring to is a convenience food designed for 15-18 month kids.
Old 12-02-2013, 08:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhyNot View Post
Forgive me if I take a baby food manufacturer's uncited claim with...well...you know...
Precisely why I was careful to mention the source.

Quote:
I've been poking around trying to find more information about the dangers of salt for infants, and so far I've found this story, one of two nurses who administered too much sodium to a preemie IV, and two stories of parents who intentionally poisoned their children with many teaspoons of table salt. This leads me to conclude that the risks were overblown in your local media in response to a truly bizarre and tragic accident, or it was another example of poisoning that the investigation missed.
Quite possibly. but advice to new parents includes 'don't give your baby adult foods' as standard here in the UK - here's an example from the NHS:
http://healthystart.nhs.uk/wp-co...fessionals.pdf - on page 36:
Quote:
Salt
The Government recommends that infants under the age of one year shouldn’thave more than 1g of salt per day.
Advise mothers not to add any salt to their baby’s food.
Mothers should also avoid giving their babies processed foods that aren’t madespecifically for babies, such as gravy and other sauces, foods tinned in brine and crisps and other salty snacks – they can all contain high levels of salt.
Erring on the side of caution, no doubt.

In any case, my point (which I think still stands) is: adult food is typically saltier than baby food, which is part of the reason baby food is bland, which is (probably) part of the reason why baby food manufacturers add other flavourings.

Last edited by Mangetout; 12-02-2013 at 08:17 AM.
Old 12-02-2013, 11:40 AM
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I've given my dogs large helpings of leftover food that had real chopped onions in it, and they were fine. My cat doesn't eat human food except for the occasional bite of ice cream or tuna. But would a small amount of onion powder really be a big deal to a cat?

I know onions are "technically" bad for dogs and cats, but at what dose, and how often does this happen? I hear of the rare chocolate overdose for dogs. I've never heard of any animal dying or even getting sick from onions, let alone a tiny pinch of onion powder.
Old 12-02-2013, 02:35 PM
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Dogs and onions. Yes, bad news.

My basenji, Zef, is a counter-surfer. I left a bowl of caramelized onion out, and she at the whole thing, equivalent to three finely sliced onions. Of course, it was Sunday, so of course, we took her to the wildly expensive emergency vet. They called poison control, who told us for a 20lb dog, this is a large dose, and recommended treatment. The vet gave her three doses of emetic, but she was not giving up her meal - she did bring up one tiny sliver, which reassured us that it was definitely her, not her sister Epi, who had consumed the onions. (Epi is the good one, and seldom goes into the kitchen). We actually chose to treat Epi as well in this case, as the onions were so concentrated, and even a tiny amount could have harmed her.

So, the vet also gave them a big dose of activated charcoal, an absorbant. A few days of black stool resulted. We also took Zef to our regular vet daily for the next week, for blood tests to check her red blood cell count. The active compound in onions causes hemolytic anemia (as detailed in this article which actually also mentions the baby food and onion powder link) and her counts were low for a few days. Gradually they improved. So, sadder and wiser, we're very careful with onions now, and I urge you all to be as well!
Old 12-02-2013, 02:38 PM
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The problem with dogs isn't that chocolate and such is instantly poisonous. Chocolate is actually more poisonous for cats. It's just that cats don't eat sweet things, and dogs won't. stop. eating. until all the food is gone. So if they get into your baking chocolate... And yes a little onion is probably okay, but that doesn't mean that any amount is safe.

IIRC it's most of the Allium genus that is toxic. Onions, garlic, shallots, scallions, chives, leeks can be potentially toxic. I'm not sure that onion powder is that specifically bad. A quick google site says that 5 g of onions per kg of body weight is bad for cats and 15 to 30 g/kg for dogs.
Old 12-02-2013, 02:49 PM
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araminty, I didn't realize Basenjis could jump that high .

Glad Zef got well. Please give the dogs extra hugs from me.
Old 12-02-2013, 02:52 PM
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It floors me that people say babies can't handle seasoned or spicy foods. What the hell do you think Indian and Mexican babies eat? I can tell you, I wasn't eating baby food - I was weaned from breast milk directly to spicy, delicious Indian food. I used to dip my hands into my aunt's food and eat it directly off my fingers. And I can tell you, there was salt in it, too.

As for onion powder, that is a fairly bland spice. Try it sometime - it really doesn't alter the taste that much, just adds a little bit of flavor.
Old 12-02-2013, 02:52 PM
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5g of onion powder is nearly a 10th of an ordinary jar of onion powder. An average 10lb cat would have to consume 10g or 1/5th of the jar.

If meat baby food were to contain onion powder (which we have established, it does not) the trace quantity present in a 2.5 oz/71g jar of ground chicken is well below the 10g per 10 lbs of cat that cause concern.

Last edited by Hello Again; 12-02-2013 at 02:53 PM.
Old 12-02-2013, 03:08 PM
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araminty, I didn't realize Basenjis could jump that high .

Glad Zef got well. Please give the dogs extra hugs from me.
Thanks! Will do! We've never actually seen Zef do her thing in the kitchen, she only ever ventures in there when we're out. And, actually, I think she probably just knocks stuff off the counters rather than jumping on to them...
Old 12-02-2013, 05:14 PM
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BTW, with regards to cats and dogs, keep in mind that our chemistry is different, and our blood chemistry is slightly different. The thiosulfates of onions and garlic, while harmless to us, can cause oxidative anemia to dogs and cats.
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