Posted onOctober 10, 2013
Popular baby foods contain far fewer nutrients than meals prepared at home, according to a new study.
Jars of food made by Cow & Gate, Heinz and Ella’s Kitchen, among others, have also been found to contain high levels of sugar.
Researchers from Glasgow University concluded that a child would receive half as much energy and protein from a “convenience” food than they would from an equivalent-sized home-made meal.
The research team wrote in the journal Archives Of Disease In Childhood: “The UK infant food market mainly supplies sweet, soft, spoonable foods targeted from age four months.
“Most products are ready-made spoonable foods that are no more energy-dense than formula milk and are, generally, much less nutrient-dense than home-made foods.”
The study said weaning foods “would not serve the intended purpose” of giving a baby extra nutrients or a range of tastes and textures.
The researchers also discovered that some foods are being promoted for use at the age of four months, contrary to official guidance.
Professor Charlotte Wright, who wrote the report, told Sky News: “The irony about these weaning foods is that they are just giving more of the same.
“Mothers think they’re going on to something bigger and different and more mature, but actually they’re providing very similar nutrient content to milk – and before the age of six months that’s all babies need.”
The products analysed by the research team were manufactured by Heinz, Boots, Cow & Gate, Hipp Organic, Organix and Ella’s Kitchen.
In a statement, Heinz told Sky News: “Generations of parents have trusted Heinz baby foods as safe and nourishing and which are specially prepared to meet babies’ nutritional needs with recipes that provide the right tastes and textures.”
A spokeswoman for Ella’s Kitchen said: “In the United Kingdom, we support breast feeding for the optimal time of six months. However, it may not always be possible or appropriate.
“As the study acknowledges, commercial weaning food is created to complement the nutrition gained from baby’s milk. Ella’s Kitchen creates its products with this exact goal. Our products are 100% organic, Soil Association approved and made following European regulations.”
Anna Rosier, managing director of Organix, told Sky News: “We support that breastfeeding to six months is the ideal form of first nutrition and ensure all of our stage 1 packaging contains the WHO guidelines.
“We are also aware that some parents decide to wean their little ones before then, so to support these parents we make it clear what foods could be suitable.
“All of our foods are complementary to breastfeeding, and we adhere to the regulations for complementary foods for babies. We do not make foods with the purpose to replace breast milk as the primary source of nutrition before six months.
“We do not fortify our foods with vitamins and minerals, unless required to by EU food regulations, as the fortification of food is not permitted under organic rules.”
The DoH recommends a gradual transition to solids starting with cereals, vegetables and fruits, before moving on to proteins.
It recommends babies still continue to receive breast milk or a pint of formula a day while they are being weaned, up to their first birthday.
A spokesperson for the British Specialist Nutrition Association, the body which represents baby food manufacturers, recommended that parents seek advice from a healthcare professional when thinking of starting weaning.