My Baby Formula Recommendation (In light of the Honest Company Lawsuit)

*Update, since this was posted, Honest issued an response, which you can read in full here. They do not address the main point, which is that synthetics are used in their formula, instead they point the finger at the FDA stating they are 'compliant' and if you have an issue with the current organic standards you should take it up with the U.S. Government. You know what Honest, YOU TAKE IT UP WITH THE U.S. Government. Take a stand and use your position as leaders in the industry to lead the charge. Don't just meet their questionable standard, go above and beyond and CHANGE the standard!

**Update, Honest's co-founder asked to speak with me after this article was published. You can read about our conversation here

The Honest Company is under fire again, this time they are accused of falsely labeling their baby formula as Organic when recent tests revealed 11 synthetic ingredients not allowed by federal law in organic products, including sodium selenite and taurine. In fact, Earth's Best and The Honest Company were sued simultaneously for the same reasons by the Organic Consumers Association.

{Click the following links to view the formal complaints against The Honest Co and Hain Celestial Group/Earth's Best.}

Whether the claims are true, partially true or not at all true, I think this gives us a great opportunity to discuss ingredients in baby formula in general.

While I believe breast milk is best for most babies, there are certainly situations that require full or partial supplement of a baby's food supply. In my case, my progesterone dropped so low, I stopped producing and wasn't able to get it back. Many others have similar or not-so-similar stories, and that's ok.

Now, I appreciate The Honest Company for creating cleaner options for skincare, beauty and baby care (I was never into their cleaning products), but I actually notified them of a few questionable ingredients in the Baby Formula, including taurine, when it was released in February 2014.

Honest responded to my questions, which I appreciated, but defended all the ingredients I called out and never addressed if they were using a synthetic version of taurine - they only explained why we need it.

Here is the interaction:

My Baby Formula Recommendation (In light of the Honest Company Lawsuit)

According to this Cornucopia.Org article, "The Organic Foods Production Act, passed by Congress in 1990, explicitly bans synthetic preservatives in organic food.

“This is another blatant violation of the federal law governing organics by multi-billion dollar corporations that apparently think they can get away with anything,” says Charlotte Vallaeys, Director of Farm and Food Policy at The Cornucopia Institute.

The preservatives are beta carotene and ascorbyl palmitate, synthetics that are added to infant formula to prevent the oxidation and rancidity of ingredients such as the controversial patented supplements DHA and ARA, manufactured by Martek Biosciences Corporation (Royal DSM) and marketed as Life’sDHA®."

Taurine "used in infant formula is produced synthetically; one processing method includes the use of sulfuric acid, a toxic and carcinogenic material, and another technique involves aziridine, listed as a hazardous air pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency."

My Baby Formula Recommendation (In light of the Honest Company Lawsuit)

Honest Company's response was almost immediate and totally scripted. They were in fact prepared for me, but the question remains: Did they in fact know they were using synthetic ingredients?

Like I mentioned in my post about losing my breast milk, it was an emotional event for me. I felt like I couldn't provide the best nourishment and immune system development for my daughter and I had to supplement immediately. I made her bottles with questionable drug store formula; mixing them with water and my tears as I had no clue how to even begin researching baby formula.

Luckily for me, an expert helped direct me by posting How To Find the Safest Organic Infant Formula a couple weeks after I lost my milk. It is written by Charlotte Vallaeys, former of Director of Farm and Food Policy at the Cornucopia Institute and now a Senior Analyst within the Consumer Safety and Sustainability Program at Consumers Union.

My Recommendations

I chose Baby's Only Organic as the best option for my daughter, and coincidentally, it was the best tasting and most similar to my breast milk. However, there are several other synthetic vitamin nutrients being used, I just found it to be the cleanest version available in the United States at the time.

This blog post gives an overview of each synthetic vitamin additive and which formulas they are found. *Note, Baby's Only is owned by Nature's One.


My Baby Formula Recommendation (In light of the Honest Company Lawsuit)

As with every organic formula on the market in the U.S., Baby's Only does contain taurine.

They state: "Taurine, an amino acid normally present in breast milk, has been shown to play a role in retinal development, among others. Cow and soy milks do not contain adequate amounts of the amino acid."

While taurine is present in breast milk, it is naturally occurring. But I chose to use Baby's Only because they are the only brand that DOES NOT contain any of the following ingredients used by other organic brands:

  • Palm Oil
    • palmitic acid from palm oil is structurally different from palmitic acid in human milk, and research has shown that human infants do not properly absorb it. The unabsorbed palmitic acid remaining in the infant’s gut reacts with calcium, and causes the formation of “soaps” in the baby’s intestines.  This important finding has been reported on more than one occasion in the journa l Pediatrics, of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Lutein
    • produced from conventionally grown marigolds—likely treated with insecticides—and processed with the neurotoxic solvent hexane.
  • Carrageenan
    • prohibited in infant formula—conventional and organic—in the European Union.  The science linking carrageenan to intestinal inflammation is disturbing enough, but what adds insult to injury is that it is entirely unnecessary.  Carrageenan contributes no nutritional value or flavor to formula, or other food, but is added to stabilize ready-to-feed formula.  Adding carrageenan means parents or caregivers do not have to shake the product before feeding it to the baby.  The alternative is to put a “shake well” label on the bottle.
  • Lycopene
    • most commonly found in tomatoes, but the version in organic infant formula is produced synthetically by the chemical manufacturer BASF.  A three-stage process is used to produce synthetic lycopene, and involves the solvent dichloromethane and the solvent toluene.  Toluene is a neurological toxin derived from benzene.
  • Nucleotides
    • produced from hydrolyzed yeast.  The yeast undergoes multiple chemical changes in order to extract nucleotides, including heating to denature proteins, cell wall proteolysis, enzymatic hydrolysis, and dehydration.  The infant formula industry shared the identity of two suppliers of nucleotides for use in infant formula: one is a Chinese biotech company (Dalian Zhen-Ao Bio-Tech) and the other supplier is Japanese.
  • I-Carnitine
    • The production of synthetic l-Carnitine involves epichlorhydrin, a list 2B material (possible human carcinogen) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.  For this reason, it was rejected for use in organic foods by the National Organic Standards Board.
  • L-Methionine 
    • The synthetic version of l-methionine used in infant formula is produced with materials including acrolein, an EPA Hazardous Air Pollutant, and hydrogen cyanide, described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a “systemic chemical asphyxiant” and “chemical warfare agent,” “used commercially for fumigation, electroplating, mining, chemical synthesis, and the production of synthetic fibers, plastics, dyes, and pesticides.” OR
  • Corn Syrup

Baby's Only markets their products as "Toddler Formula" rather than an infant formula but according to the company, this is done "to encourage breastfeeding until age 1.  Its products meet the same nutritional standards that the FDA sets forth for infant formula."

You can find Baby's Only Organic at Sprouts, several Whole Foods Markets, on Amazon and from Nature's One directly.

If you research Baby's Only Organic, you may find a little controversy over the levels of arsenic created by the use of Brown Rice Syrup. The company fixed their formulation and as long as the due dates on the Dairy formula are July 2015 or later, and Dairy with DHA & ARA formula are January 2014 or later, these have been tested to contain undetectable levels of arsenic.

Holle Organic Infant Formula

Another option is Holle Organic Infant formula which is from Germany, and void of most of the concerning ingredients I listed above, except Palm Oil, but they still use Rape Seed Oil (Canola) and Maltodextrin. 

Besides those ingredients, they do not use most of the synthetic vitamin additives that others use and might be your best bet, even for those in the United States now that I found you can get it domestically from Purely Loved Organics or Natural Baby Organics without importing. It's still a wonderful option and FAR better than the drug store options!

Milk Donation

Though I have not had any direct experience with this, several of my friends have found breast milk donors through the organizations listed below. Please take necessary precautions and beware of the risks involved with this practice.

The DIY Option

You could always make your own formula, which I have zero experience with. The Weston A. Price Foundation provides complete direction on how to do this!

I'm curious - how do you feel about The Honest Company after these claims, in addition to the 'Sunscreen Scandal' and SLS Drama? Do you trust their products?