Shop-bought baby foods ‘lack vital nutrients essential for growth and protection against illness’
By Sophie Borland
PUBLISHED: 22:51, 4 April 2012 | UPDATED: 22:51, 4 April 2012
Top selling baby foods lack vital nutrients essential for growth and protection against illness, researchers have warned.
They have found that many of the most popular brands contain less than a fifth of the recommended daily supply of calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron and other crucial minerals.
Experts warn that babies fed solely on the store-bought jars and formula milk are being deprived of these nutrients which are crucial for growth, development and to protect against illness when they grow up.
The global baby food market is estimated to be worth more than £6 billion and around four in five British parents buy pureed meals or formula milk.
But experts say leading manufacturers such as Heinz and Cow and Gate do not face as tough regulations as the makers of adult foods.
Researchers from the University of Greenwich analysed the nutritional content of eight popular baby foods given to children aged six to 12 months.
They did not name specific brands but they looked at four meat varieties including three cottage pie flavours and one pasta and lamb.
They also looked at four vegetable-based jars – a creamy vegetable pasta, a cheesy tomato pasta star, a vegetable lasagne and a garden vegetable.
The experts analysed the amount of calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, selenium, potassium, sodium and other key minerals using a highly specialised machine known as a Inductivity Coupled Plasma-Optical Emission Spectrometer.
They found that on average the meat-based foods contained less than a fifth of the recommended daily supply of calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, potassium and sodium.
In fact the meat-based jars contained on average just three per cent of recommended daily supply of calcium while the vegetable-based types provided 7 per cent of zinc and 6 per cent of iron.
The number of jars babies will eat varies hugely and will depend on their appetites and other foods and milk they are given.
But researchers estimated that infants given one meat jar and one vegetable jar on top of 600 ml of formula milk would not be getting enough calcium, magnesium, copper and selenium.
Calcium is essential for building strong bones and teeth, regulating the heart beat and ensuring the blood clots properly.
Magnesium is also essential for bone health, copper is important for brain development and selenium helps the immune system.
Dr Nazanin Zand, whose study is published in the journal Food Chemistry said: ‘These babies are have limited capacity to eat therefore it is crucial that their foods are as nutrient dense as possible.
‘The Government have focused on the importance of breast feeding and the health of school meals but they have neglected baby foods given in between.’