Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Freakonomics: Is Mehadrin Materna better for your baby?

I do our "major" weekly grocery shopping. As with most guys, I get a list of what to buy, and then thanks to the wonders of cellphone technology, I end up calling my wife about 5 times during the shopping adventure to verify what she meant.

Last week was no exception.

Baby formula is on the list...since my wife is nursing, this is a relatively new item, which required a question.

me: Hi, which baby formula should I buy?

her: Materna, "Shlav (phase) 1". And make sure it's not mehadrin (ultra-supervised kosher)

me: Not mehadrin!?

her: I heard that the mehadrin has less vitamins in it than the regular kashrut one.

So, I get to the baby stuff aisle and I'm wondering about why the mehadrin powdered formula has less vitamins. I find the 2 types and start comparing. Interesting. The mehadrin version has more vitamin percentages than the regular one, but not exclusively. The regular kosher version trumps the mehadrin version for some of the nutrients...albeit less than the mehadrin version.

I grab my cellphone camera and take pictures of the back label of each container. Seems to me that the mehadrin version is "healthier" -- and since it only costs a shekel more (about 25 cents), I figure why not.

Only once I got home did I do some more serious checking and copied all the values into an excel table to compare. I didn't even need to copy the values from my cellphone pics -- Materna has the data on their website.

The mehadrin version won hands down.

What's different between the mehadrin version and the non-mehadrin versions of Materna? A quick call to the Materna hotline provided the answer: the only difference between them is that mehadrin uses "Chalav Yisrael powdered milk" from Denmark, while the regular kashrut version uses Chief Rabbinate approved Chalav Stam powdered milk from Finland.

The Materna representative assured me there's no nutritional benefit of one over the other, and that the differences are all within an approved range for vitamins and minerals.

So -- just when I thought my post was ready to be posted, I did a quick image search to put a graphic of mehadrin Materna in this posting...when I came across the EXPORT versions of Materna. Guess what? They also have different nutritional values!

Export Mehadrin vs. Export Regular Kashrut.

I've had enough. For an additional 1 NIS, I'll buy the mehadrin...though I'm not convinced its any better for the baby.



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25 comments:

Rafi G. said...

I dont get it - why do they say it is the same if it is clearly not?

And if the only difference is the source of the milk powder, why would there be a nutritional difference?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Rafi: Materna claims the differences are minute and irrelevant.

I guess cow milk is slightly different from cow to cow?

Maybe if the cow learns daf yomi?

Rafi G. said...

Mom in Israel did a write-up a while back comparing some mehadrin foods with their non-mehadrin equivalents. I remember the Telma cornflakes that are mehadrin have more sugar than the non-mehadrin

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Rafi G: Did you mean this post?

http://mominisrael.blogspot.com/2008/05/navigating-israeli-supermarket.html

Rafi G. said...

seems to be it

realRightWinger said...

I am glad 2 c u have so much time free on your hands to do this economic evaluation...

Commenter Abbi said...

When i used to buy materna, i found it was actually a few shekel cheaper then the regular. But that was a few years ago. We're only similac here, very spoiled.

Hannah said...

I think what your wife may have heard is that they use less milk powder and more sugar, because the chalav yisrael version is more expensive. You need to look at the ingredients and the order they appear, not just the list of nutrients.

And as we learned in the Remedia scandal,what is listed on the package is no guarantee of what is inside.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Hannah: The ingredients are identical -- as is the order of them.

Abbi: Why is Similac better than Materna? (after all, its only OU and not chalav yisrael ;-)

Hannah said...

Nevertheless, they may not have the same proportion of milk powder. And I would be pretty skeptical of anything Materna's marketers say.

פייגא דבורה said...

of course it differs from cow to cow, especially cows from different countries (different food sources, different pollutants). The differences between maternas are statistically insignificant, but whats interesting is that materna has more vitamins and minerals than US similac, EXCEPT for iron, which has less....

פייגא דבורה said...

and by the way, it definitely is the same proportion of milk powder, hence the same calories, same units of measurement....

Anonymous said...

Most likely, the analyses were run on different dates and perhaps by different laboratories. There are no differences that can't be explained as typical "measurement error".

Renegade said...

slightly off topic but i always wondered why Materna is so much cheaper here in the states than the American brands?

Anonymous said...

Round our way (Jerusalem) Mehadrin Materna is always cheaper. Normally by at least a couple of shekels.

Yellow Boy

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

YB: I usually shop at Rami Levi (Shivuk HaShikma) at Tzomet Shilat...Ive yet to see the mehadrin materna cheaper there.

Will keep on looking....

keren said...

On the other hand mothers who user regular materna, moved to Mehadrin Materna during Pesach (as that is the only one which is Kosher for PEsach)

They said that babies would not drink it, or suffered more from stomach aches with the Mehadrin one (data from the Kipa Pregnancy and Childbirth forum - anecdotal)

Anonymous said...

The non- mehadrin comes in shlav 1 and shlav 2 whereas the mehadrin does not have shlavim. Did you compare shlav 2 regular with the mehadrin? I wonder if that would be more equivilent. Although, it would make sense that the Mehadrin would be somewhere between shlav 1 and 2 of the regular.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Anonymous: Why do you think that mehadrin doesn't have multiple shlavim?

Mehadrin Shlav 1: http://www.materna.co.il/htmls/page_616.aspx?c0=13594&bsp=13267

Mehadrin Shlav 2:
http://www.materna.co.il/htmls/page_624.aspx?c0=13602&bsp=13600

LeahGG said...

At SuperPharm Modiin Mall, the Mehadrin Shlavim in the big boxes is 51.99, where the regular shlavim in big boxes is 56 or so. The one without shlavim is more expensive than either of them, and at mega, all three are over 55, We always buy the mehadrin shlavim at Superpharm, unless there's a sale. I've noticed no difference with my kids (I have 2 who drink formula regularly) between shlavim regular and shlavim mehadrin and the one without shlavim (though I've only used that on pesach) I will say that the one time I gave a 4-month-old stage 3 materna, the results were very bad. He had really explosive diapers, but at one year, he's not ready for regular milk yet either (spits up really badly after milk, but not after milk-based formula, go figure. I'll pay extra to not have him spit up, thanks)

Jake said...

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Jake said...

Thanks a lot for the post. I love to read articles which are about medicine or health related topics. They keep me up to date with the current issues. I hope to read more from you!

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Kamagra said...

I think what your wife may have heard is that they use less milk powder and more sugar, because the chalav yisrael version is more expensive. You need to look at the ingredients and the order they appear

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to sound so stupid but could you please tell me what the ingredients are. I have looked online everywhere and all I find are the nutritional values. I would like to know if it has corn, soy or yeast in it. I would appreciate your help with any information you can share. Shalom

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