How does baby food last so long

How Do We Make Pouches Shelf-Stable Without Losing Nutrients? – Serenity Kids

We get a lot of questions about how our baby food is made and if nutrition is eroded during the production and preservation process... so we are going to spill the puree!

If you have more questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to us here.

How We Make Our Product: Ingredient Sourcing + Retort

First, we find farmers who are doing things right. They’re either growing organic vegetables, raising nutrient-dense meats on pasture, or pressing healthy organic oils using minimal processing. Here’s what you need to know about our ingredients: 

  • Organic vegetables are flash frozen right after harvesting to preserve vitamin content. Studies show that frozen vegetables maintain more vitamins than fresh vegetables.
  • Organic Oils
    • Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil: a natural triglyceride oil, cold pressed and filtered
    • Organic Avocado Oil: refined with processing aids that are naturally derived
  • Meats come from animals raised on pastures of small American family regenerative farms. Studies show pasture-raised meat is nutritionally superior to conventional meat.
  • Muscle and fat from the meat is ground together to maximize nutrition.

These ingredients are shipped frozen to our factory where they blend these ingredients in small batches and warm them up to a non-boiling temperature. The mixture is pureed and pumped into BPA-free pouches specifically designed for this process. Once the pouches are filled, they are arranged on a cart that’s wheeled into a retort, which is basically a very large pressure cooker. Water and steam is pumped into the retort and pouches are processed with the right combination of pressure, heat, and time to create shelf stability.

Similar to home canning, this process kills any bacteria and allows the baby food to be shelf-stable without the need for preservatives or refrigeration. The fat, protein, fiber, carbohydrates, and minerals are 100% intact. Vitamins are naturally slightly harmed whenever they are heated, but studies have shown that pressure cooking preserves more vitamins than any other cooking method. Once cooled, pouches are placed into boxes and shipped out to retailers or homes like yours!

Alternative Ways to Make Pouch Baby Foods

Hot Fill: what it is and why we don’t use it

The traditional (and cheapest) method of making pouched baby food is called hot fill, where purees are boiled for a long period of time before being filled into the pouch. This process requires the puree to have a high acid content, which can only be achieved by adding ingredients like fruit, tomato, lemon juice, or citric acid. This process also significantly damages vitamins as they are “boiled off” during the process prior to filling the pouch. We do not use this method because we want to preserve maximum nutrition and only use savory, nutrient-dense ingredients that are typically not as acidic. 

High Pressure Pascalization (HPP): what it is and why we don’t use it

The newest way to make pouch baby food is called HPP, which stands for High Pressure Pascalization. These pouches are not heated during production. Instead, pouches are filled with puree, placed into a high-pressure chamber, and pressurized to kill bacteria. Cold processing maintains more freshness than hot fill or retort, particularly with antioxidants. However, the product spoils much faster and must be refrigerated. Like hot fill, it also requires the product to include ingredients higher in acidity. We do not use this method because we want to use meats and veggies that are not acidic and because we want a convenient shelf-stable option for busy moms. 

Convenience Without Compromise

To sum it up, you can rest assured that feeding your baby our pouches does not mean compromising nutrition. There are many reasons that a baby’s primary diet should be fresh foods, but when it comes to nutrition, ours are as close as you’re going to get to what you’d make in your kitchen. 

Shelf-Stable Baby Food 101 – Once Upon a Farm

I’ve always been into nutrition. When I had my first daughter, I knew I wanted to feed her the very best food possible. I decided I would work outside the home, finish a Ph.D. program, be a full-time mom, and make all her own food. (Oh and don’t forget, try to maintain friendships, a marriage and also have time for some self-care?) No problem right?

Boy was I wrong! Not only did showers and makeup become a rare occasion, trying to realistically make all her own food did as well. So long were the attempts at washing, peeling, chopping, storing, blending, pouring, freezing….then to have things go bad and start all over. Ayayay. Plus, it was a mess to try and dethaw the food at the right time with everything else going on in my schedule.

So I caved. I found myself at the supermarket buying the shelf-stable brands because that was all that existed at the time. (I could find refrigerated pet food and refrigerated adult food, but NO refrigerated baby food! (Still hard to believe). I felt somewhat guilty with each spoonful I gave of those organic baby food pouches. Sure, there are many worse things you could feed your kiddo but I knew there was something “off” about food that was able to sit on the shelf for longer periods than the age of my baby eating it. Food is supposed to go bad. But at the time I was desperate and the time and extra sanity I gained felt worth the trade.

Thus, Once Upon a Farm was born with its seedling beginnings back in 2013. I decided there had to be a better way. If I was wanting fresh, convenient options, there must be more moms that do as well right? So I put my knowledge of HPP, childhood development, nutrition, and extreme passion and perseverance together and I started as a local brand in the San Diego area and was in markets across the county. It is so exciting that we are now able to offer fresh baby food on a national level!

Through the process of diving into a baby food business full time, I’ve learned a thing or two about shelf-stable baby food. Some of the things I have discovered are even more alarming than I intuitively thought they were back in 2013.

Here is what I’ve learned about the shelf-stable baby food industry and what you might be interested in knowing as well:

Note: There is NO shame in feeding your kids shelf-stable options. I do believe that the thermal pasteurization process that shelf-stable food requires, kills and denatures a lot of the nutrients and benefits of the fresh food though. If you want the freshest, most nutrient- dense baby food there is, there is no question that making it yourself or buying an HPP brand is the way to go. You can taste and see the difference yourself, but if you can’t feed your baby these options for whatever reason, trust me, they will live.


  1. Larger baby food companies often start out with pre-processed purees and/or concentrates. 
    What are pre-processed purees and concentrates? Fruits and vegetables are cut up and are washed through a “food based” chemical wash. They are then milled down into a pulp using extremely powerful machines that raise the temperature of the fruit and vegetable. From there the now “puree” is “defibred”, taking out many important and insoluble fibers that are critical for slow blood sugar absorption and satiety cues. Then it is passed through an extractor to remove even MORE fibers, seeds, particles, etc. The now “substance” then goes through a deareation process removing oxygen and vital enzymes that are critical for nutrient absorption and breakdown. Finally, the substance gets pasteurized over 185 degrees Fahrenheit, killing more vital enzymes, vitamins, and healthy bacteria that are critical for babies’ healthy growth and development. The puree is then passed through ANOTHER filter before it is poured into large plastic drums and can now sit in a shelf-stable environment due to the deactivation of enzymes and the pasteurization process.

Concentrates take the puree process even further. Prior to pasteurization the substance is then sent to an “evaporator” which removes the precious water from the fruit and basically leaves you with sugar (even more sugar than the original purees already leave you with!)

Fruit and Vegetable Pureeing Process Chart

  1. Shelf-stable baby food manufacturers will then import these purees into their manufacturing facilities.
    Sometimes you can get them in the United States but often they are sourced abroad as they can be cheaper (ever wonder why baby food is so cheap?). Once they are imported they can easily mix the purees together to create different flavors such as those “yummy”, “Apple”, “Pear” and “Broccoli” flavors I’m sure you have all seen. 
  1. From here some extra things may be added such as lemon juice concentrates (see concentrate process above), citric acid and/or ascorbic acids, and waters. The reason for this is it brings the PH down to a certain level so mold, bacteria, or pathogens don’t grow in the food. Citric acid and ascorbic acid go through an entire separate level of multi-extractions and could be its own blog but I’ll at least give you a short insight into how citric acid is produced: basically a fungus called “Aspergillus niger” (a disease that causes black mold) is fed onto a sugar containing medium. After the mold is filtered out of the resulting solution, citric acid is isolated using other chemicals and then finally extracted using sulfuric acid. To put it in a nutshell it is a lot of processing that just isn’t necessary and I’d prefer to not have my baby it eat.
  1. Once the concoction is mixed together it is poured into pouches made of plastic and aluminum packaging or poured into glass jars. For now, I’ll talk about the “retort process” which is done with pouches. Now comes the fun part (can you tell I’m being sarcastic?). These pouches, that are made of plastic and aluminum and are filled with all of the pre-processed substances I just mentioned, are heated to 230-275 degrees Fahrenheit! This kills the Vitamin B1 in the product (a critical nutrient for brain development and motor function. In fact, studies have found that without it, it severely affects motor function when babies get to preschool age). The heating process also kills and damages other important vitamins and nutrients such as Vitamin C, Folate, B-6, B-5 (critical to red blood cell development), and Vitamin A. In addition to these critical vitamins, additional enzymes and healthy bacteria are also killed in the process. But that’s not all….
  1. The fact that the product loses vitamins and nutrients is definitely an issue, especially if the majority of what babies are eating, are the shelf-stable items. However, a bigger concern of mine is the fact that they are heated to such high temperatures in plastic and aluminum packaging. Although baby items are mandated to be BPA free, this does not mean much. There are other chemicals inside the plastic such as BPS and other endocrine disruptors which get released during the heating process. BPS has been show to create a slew of health issues such as ADHD, diabetes, obesity, asthma, birth defects and cancer.
  1. The pouches are now ready to go and are packed away in boxes and shipped to store shelves where they can sit there for 2 or more years.
  1. Now baby gets to eat this “baby food” which tastes super sugary, has no texture, and is lacking vibrancy and color.
  1. Babies usually love the food because it tastes very sweet and has a high “BRIX level” (the measure of how sweet something is). The reason they taste so sugary is because they have been heated several times, condensing the product down into simple sugars, which is basically like a jam.

So now you know a little more about the shelf-stable baby food process. The alternative is to make your own food at home so you know exactly what your baby is getting or to use a baby food that is cold-pressured.

With Once Upon a Farm, our process is simple:

Work with farmers —> Use Fresh Produce —> Cold-Blend —> Cold Fill into pouches —> Run through HPP (a big water pressure chamber that uses NO heat and does not destroy critical nutrients). For more info on HPP visit our blog here:

You can taste and see the difference yourself. Try our Magic Velvet Mango and compare that to a Fresh mango vs. a shelf-stable mango and tell us what you think in the comments! We would love to hear from you.


– Written by Cassandra Curtis, Founder & COO, Once Upon a Farm


  1. Scott Belcher, Ph.D., associate professor, pharmacology, University of Cincinnati; Steven Hentges, Ph.D., executive director, polycarbonate business unit, American Plastics Council; Kirby Donnelly, Ph.D., department head, environmental and occupational health, Texas A&M School of Rural Public Health, College Station; Jan. 30, 2008, Toxicology Letters

Posted on: May 22, 2017

Posted by: Michaela Meehan


How to store baby food?

Food plays a huge role in the harmonious development of the child. Mothers are usually interested in the selection of the first baby food long before the introduction of complementary foods. We will devote today's article to the rules for storing baby food.

We've put together a few hacks to help you figure out how to keep different forms of baby foods fresh.

Prepared baby food storage rules

For those who don't bother with cooking their own complementary foods, things are a little easier. Product features and packaging method dictate the storage rules:

Dry mixes and cereals are designed for long-term storage provided the packaging is intact. After opening the pack, the shelf life of the product is no more than three weeks. Manufacturers recommend storing cereals and mixtures packaged in jars in their original packaging. If you purchased the product in a cardboard box or in a bag, it is advisable to pour the contents into an airtight container. Food grade plastic boxes are perfect. It is safe to store even baby food in such containers, as they are made of materials that are specially designed to come into contact with food. The container itself should be stored in a dark, dry place.

Liquid and semi-liquid baby food (yogurts, juices, fruit drinks) can be stored for no more than five days from the date of its manufacture. An important storage condition is the temperature from 0 to 5 °C. After opening the package, dairy and sour-milk products should be consumed within a day. Fruit drinks, vegetable and fruit juices can be stored for up to three days.

Canned food (mashed potatoes, pates, soups, cereals), depending on the composition, has a clearly defined shelf life. To prevent the product from oxidizing, after opening it must be stored in a tightly closed container. Opened baby food should be consumed within 24 hours.

Rules for storing homemade preparations for a children's table

There are two options for homemade preparations - use them immediately, or freeze them .

If we are talking about freezing, then there are several basic rules for the preparation of products:

Fish products are frozen in a double mill, processed in front into portions of small pieces. Freeze more often in airtight boxes, resistant to low temperatures of the freezer. Meat freezing can be saved for about nine months, and ribna - only three.

Vegetables and fruits can also be frozen in containers. In the freezer, the stench can lie no more than fate.

Defrost preparations for children's meals only in the refrigerator. Rizke heating can help the product of the greater part of the brown speeches.

Now you know all the secrets of saving a child's meal!

Other statistics

How much and where to store baby food in jars?

Some manufacturers write detailed storage guidelines for closed and unopened baby food packages right on the label. These rules must be observed, even if they differ from the rules for storing similar products from other manufacturers. If there is no detailed instruction, use the following recommendations.

Once again, we remind you that even unopened packaging must be stored in a dark, cool place. At temperatures above +25°C, products may deteriorate even in their original packaging.

Porridges for breeding:

  • The main enemy of dry mixes and porridges is moisture. Therefore, always make sure that the spoon for the porridge set is absolutely dry, and the bag itself is tightly closed after use;
  • Try to release as much excess air as possible before closing, so that moisture from it is not absorbed into the product;
  • Keep an open bag of porridge in a dry place at room temperature. There is no need to store cereals in the refrigerator, they quickly become damp and spoil there;
  • Ready diluted porridge can be stored for no more than an hour or two. An opened package can be stored for 2-3 weeks (see manufacturer's instructions). But if after a few days you notice that the powder has become damp, lumps are noticeable in it - throw it away. Even if the product looks normal, but was opened more than three weeks ago, it is dangerous to feed it to a child. You can use leftovers in adult homemade cakes.

Choose cereals for your baby

Industrial purees

An unopened can can be stored at room temperature in a dark place. An opened jar of fruit and vegetable puree will live in the refrigerator for no more than a day, and only if you follow simple rules.

Select baby puree

Do not bottle feed your baby. Put the desired portion with a clean spoon into a separate container, close the jar with the rest and put it in the refrigerator. Reheat reserved food if needed. You don't need to heat the whole jar.

If you fed your baby directly from a jar, the shelf life of such puree is only a few hours even in the refrigerator, since the baby's saliva and bacteria got into the food on the spoon.


The shelf life of meat puree after opening is only 24 hours, subject to the same rules. If you bought puree in a metal package, be sure to transfer it to a clean, dry jar and close the lid. It is undesirable to store opened puree in its original packaging and it is recommended to use it immediately. Closed - store in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.

Homemade cereals

Same rules as for diluted cereals. In the process of cooking, the porridge is ground with a blender and rubbed through a sieve. At this time, microorganisms get into the porridge from the air, so you can’t store such porridge for a long time.

Home-made puree

It is possible to increase the shelf life if the finished puree is poured into small sterilized containers, covered with cling film and immediately put in the freezer.

Learn more