Food Product of the Week! Similac Isomil Advance Soy Baby Formula – Dissertation to Dirt
Dissertation to Dirt

Food Product of the Week! Similac Isomil Advance Soy Baby Formula


Grocery stores are saturated with food products. Food products are made to resemble real food, but aren’t real food. Every Friday I’ll feature one of these products.

To win Food Product of the Week, a food product must not only be artificial, but exhibit a particular pointlessness, either for its health value, money value, or convenience value. Added bonus if it embodies or promotes some massive misconception in our understanding of nutrition. 

This week’s Food Product was inspired by a friend of mine, Marcie, who recently had her second baby boy.  She and her husband came over for dinner Monday night with their two young ones, and in the course of the conversation, Marcie mentioned that she had just finished reading Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food,” and it is making her rethink what she feeds her family.  “Even the baby formula in the store is pretty creepy.  A lot of my friends make their own.”

Well.  She wasn’t kidding.  I guess I was under the impression that baby formula would be regulated in terms of ingredients.  Instead, I found half an aisle of different formulas claiming to produce different effects, with different supplemental additives.  It gave me odd associations with shopping for food for my cats (low hairball formula, digestive sensitivity formula, fussiness and gas…oh, wait).

I’m not condemning formula across the board.  I’ve never had a baby and I’m sure the logistics of breast feeding can get complicated.  I do think breast milk is better, but that’s not the argument I’m having.  Still, this expanse of formulas promising certain manufactured health effects for infants is even more unsavory than food products targeted for adults.  Especially because when you look at these formulas, in particular the soy formula I’m highlighting here, the ingredient list reads like a can of soda.

Water. Corn Syrup. Soy. Vegetable oil. Sugar.  With all the press on sugary foods and childhood obesity, shouldn’t ingredient lists like this be a topic of discussion?  Does somebody know more about formula than I do?  Because I’m wondering how this is okay.  Adults in the US already get enough unwanted corn syrup, and now it seems the steady stream of corn and artificial sugar can start in our earliest moments in life.

For me, this experience in the formula aisle reinforced how insidious health claims on food products can really be, and why a nutrient-based understanding of health (fat does x, fiber does y) leads to the creation of artificial products that are at best absurd and at worst detrimental to our health.  If your product is water and corn syrup, add calcium carbonate and suddenly it promotes healthy bones.  Add docosahexaenoic acid and it supports brain development.  Inject it with soy isolate and it is easily digestible and prevents spit up.  Nutritional additives can be used to mask a product that is nutritionally void.

As if the sugar-induced ingredient list wasn’t enough, this Food Product of the Week gives the added benefit of being able to take advantage of mothers who are trying to do what they think is best for their child.  Classy.