Toxic Baby Formula Ingredients to Watch Out For

Your baby's formative years set the foundation for their long-term health, which is why it is so important to avoid exposing them to potentially harmful ingredients.

Introducing added sugars during infancy, for example, may lead to increased consumption during childhood, heightening the risks of obesity, poor dental health, or nutritional inadequacy.

While this is just one of the ingredients we'll discuss today, all of the toxic ingredients listed below should be avoided to establish a healthy nutritional foundation for your baby.

The information below will provide you with key insights on how to avoid harmful ingredients in baby formula. This will allow you to make informed choices and discover the best baby formula for your little one!

Commonly Used Harmful Ingredients in Baby Formula

Let's start by outlining some of the most common toxic baby food additives and the reasons why we should avoid them for optimal infant health. These ingredients aren't naturally found in breast milk, the golden standard of infant nutrition, so why would we want them in baby formulas?

Common toxic ingredients in baby formula | Organic's Best


1) Added Sugar or Corn Syrup ๐Ÿง‚

The health risks associated with long-term consumption of added sugars, including corn syrup or table sugar (sucrose), cannot be understated.

These risks are compounded by the addictive nature of these substances, with studies showing that consuming baby formula with added sugars may contribute to an increased sugar intake in later years and a higher risk of childhood obesity.

There is also overwhelming evidence linking sugar consumption to poor dental health, digestive discomforts, metabolic effects, and altered taste preferences.

American baby formula often contains sucrose or corn syrup solids, whereas European baby formula primarily relies on lactose, a naturally occurring sugar, to replicate the composition of breast milk.


2) Genetically Modified Ingredients ๐Ÿ”ฌ

Concerns about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are increasing, which has led many parents to seek out formulas that follow European organic regulations which prohibit GMOs. This consumer push towards more natural options for infant nutrition has thankfully resulted in a wider range of baby foods made without the use of GMOs.

This is great news for parents, as studies from The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer have found that glyphosate, a herbicide commonly used in the production of genetically modified food crops, is likely a carcinogen to humans.

If this concerns you, you'll be happy to know that Jovie, a European baby formula brand pioneering clean nutrition, offers products that are certified European organic and glyphosate residue-free!

That said, further research is required to gain a comprehensive understanding of how GMOs impact human health. In the meantime, you should be aware that experts have raised concerns about allergenicity, toxicity, changes in nutritional composition, and antibiotic resistance with GMO use.


3) Carrageenan ๐ŸŒŠ

Carrageenan, a common additive in baby formula derived from seaweed, may act as a thickener with texture-improving characteristics. However, it's often cited as being a potential carcinogen and gastrointestinal disruptor.

However, some studies have shown that food-grade carrageenan is safe for consumption, and regulatory bodies like the FDA have approved its use in American baby formula. As far as European baby formulas go, the EFSA has prohibited this ingredient in infant formulas, but it is permitted to be used in restricted amounts in follow-on formulas and weaning foods with the opinion that it's unlikely to pose a risk to older infants.

With these mixed findings, we believe it is best to err on the side of caution, and thus, none of our European formulas or baby foods contain this ingredient. There are also healthier alternatives for improving the texture of formula milk, such as locust bean gum or starch.


4) Hormones ๐Ÿ’‰

While hormones are naturally present in all living organisms, the use of synthetic hormones in food production has sparked controversy.

Some studies suggest that consumption of hormone-treated meat and dairy products may be linked to an increased risk of certain cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer. However, further research is needed to understand the extent of these risks.

Additionally, there are concerns about the early onset of puberty in children and the development of antibiotic resistance due to the use of hormones in livestock. As a result, many parents opt for hormone-free or organic food products to reduce their exposure to these potential risks.


5) Artificial flavours, colourings, and preservatives ๐Ÿงช

The FDA has approved over 3000 food additives for preserving, colouring, flavouring, or thickening food.

However, many of these additives are restricted for use in infant formulas specifically due to potential health concerns linked to learning disabilities, hyperkinesis, kidney damage, tumours, skin rashes, migraines, asthma, sleep disturbance, and gastric upset.

Scientists have also reported a link between food colourings and behavioural problems in children.


6) Arsenic ☠️

Although arsenic is never added to formula intentionally, research conducted through The Clean Label Project found that a jarring 80% of American infant formulas contain arsenic. This is likely due to the fact that arsenic is present naturally in our environment and thus can also be detected in a variety of foods we consume. However, with stricter controls and testing in place, steps can be taken to reduce the risk of arsenic contamination.

Based on further studies conducted by the EFSA, which highlight the risks of arsenic exposure, including increased risks of certain cancers, the EU Commission has implemented new rules to lower the maximum levels of arsenic allowed in European baby formulas, offering greater protection against toxic ingredients.


The Truth About Soy Formula Ingredients

One of the more controversial ingredients in recent years is soy. Soy-based baby formula is an alternative feeding option that uses soy protein and is free from lactose and other dairy ingredients.

Parents may opt for this type of formula if their child is not exclusively fed breast milk and faces challenges with digesting lactose, has a food allergy to milk-based formula (although many babies who are allergic to cow's milk are also allergic to soy), or if their family follows a plant-based diet.

The main areas of concern regarding soy include its potential effects on hormones, thyroid activity, and allergies. Of particular concern are compounds called phytoestrogens, specifically soy isoflavones, which are found in soy milk and behave similarly to human estrogen.

However, more research is needed to understand the risks associated with soy baby formulas fully, and currently, they are recognized as safe by both the FDA and EFSA.

Learn more by reading Revealing the Truth About Soy Formula


Debunking Myths: Overstated Risks in Infant Formula

Do not fall prey to fearmongering when considering the safety of certain baby formula ingredients!

While you may prefer to avoid certain substances for environmental or dietary reasons, it's important to be aware that the ingredients listed below are recognized as providing essential nutrients and are proven to offer certain benefits despite some controversy tied to their use in baby formulas.


Myths about toxic ingredients in baby formula | Organic's Best


Is palm oil okay for babies?

Palmitic acid, the main component of palm oil that supports infant nutrition, is also abundant in breast milk. In baby formula, this fat source, alongside vegetable oils, supports cognitive function, eye health, and efficient nerve transmission.

While concerns have been raised about its high saturated fat content and potential impact on calcium absorption, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has concluded that the use of palm oil in baby formula is safe at current levels.

Furthermore, European formulas from brands like HiPP use organic palm oil in their products, which is sourced through fair and sustainable methods to combat concerns surrounding deforestation.

That said, if you still prefer to avoid this ingredient, choosing a formula based on whole milk rather than skimmed milk is a great option. Whole milk retains its natural milk fats and is naturally high in palmitic acid, which allows the formulation to remain palm oil-free and also contains fewer vegetable oils.

Whole milk options from European brands include all of the offerings of Jovie and Kendamil as well as Holle Goat and Lowenzhan Organics' whole cow's milk range.


Why is maltodextrin added to milk powder?

Maltodextrin, a carbohydrate derived from corn, rice, or potato starch, is a common ingredient in baby formula

Despite concerns about its impact on obesity and blood sugar levels, maltodextrin is generally considered safe in baby formula when used appropriately. Based on anecdotal evidence, it is well-tolerated by most infants.

As far as benefits go, it offers easy-to-digest carbs that supply energy and fuel growth. Research also suggests that using maltodextrin in baby formulas may help reduce intestinal distress. So, if your baby is prone to tummy troubles, a formula containing maltodextrin may be recommended to alleviate some of their discomfort.


Is starch good or bad for babies?

Starch is a complex carbohydrate typically derived from corn, rice, or tapioca. It is used in infant formula to help balance the energy provided by other ingredients and support healthy growth and development.

One of the main benefits of starch in baby formula is that it provides a more sustained source of energy compared to simpler carbohydrates like corn syrup.

Starch also helps to thicken the formula, which can be beneficial for infants with reflux or who spit up frequently. So, if your baby struggles with digestive disturbances, opting for a baby formula with starch may be a solution.

Most European infant formulas staged from birth to six months are exclusively lactose-based, which is easier for newborns to digest. However, follow-on formulas for babies 6 months and up may add starch to help older babies feel full for longer.


How to Select the Safest Baby Formula

As a parent, being informed about your baby's nutrition is a top priority; this is why we encourage you to pay close attention to the packaging, which will indicate which ingredients are present, as well as labels that can indicate the overall quality of the formula.

In Europe, for example, you can spot a certified organic product by the coveted white starry leaf symbol on a green backdrop.


The Case for Organic Baby Formulas

EU organic helps protect from toxic ingredients in baby formula | Organic's Best


The reality is that non-organic baby formulas, although safe and controlled, are subject to less stringent regulations. Alternatively, EU organic baby formula is closely monitored by multiple regulatory bodies, ensuring a consistent high-quality standard beginning from farm to final product.

Organic certification offers numerous advantages, including higher standards for animal feed quality, soil health, and the exclusion of synthetic nutrients.

In accordance with EU organic regulations, organic baby formulas are to be free from synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which means that by choosing organic, you can easily avoid some of the aforementioned toxic ingredients.

Check out our online shop to browse the latest and greatest organic products available today from top brands like HiPP, Holle and more!


Quiz: Find the Perfect Formula for Your Baby

Babies may have varying nutritional needs, which can make finding the best baby formula tricky. But don't worry-we have simplified this decision-making process with an interactive quiz that will make finding that perfect match a breeze. Receive personalized recommendations at the click of a button below!


Concluding Thoughts on Harmful Ingredients in Baby Formula

Ensuring your baby's health and well-being begins with understanding and avoiding potentially harmful ingredients found in baby formulas.

Added sugars, genetically modified ingredients, carrageenan, hormones, artificial flavours, colourings, preservatives, and arsenic are some of the substances to watch out for on your mission to avoid toxic ingredients.

While certain ingredients, like palm oil, maltodextrin, and starch, are safe and beneficial in moderation, it's crucial to select formulas carefully, prioritizing organic options when possible.

By making informed choices, you can provide your baby with the healthiest start in life. If you don't know where to start, we recommend opting for European baby formula, as it stands out for having some of the strictest quality and safety standards while offering essential nutrients that little ones need to grow and develop!



Please be aware that this information is based on general trends in babies, and it is not medical advice. Your doctor should be your first source of information and advice when considering any changes to your child's formula and when choosing your child's formula. Always consult your pediatrician before making any decisions about your child's diet or if you notice any changes in your child.

Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby because breast milk provides your child with all the essential nutrients they need for growth and development. Please consult your pediatrician if your child requires supplemental feeding.