Shop-bought baby foods 'lack vital nutrients essential for growth and protection against illness'

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UPDATED:

08:09 GMT, 5 April 2012


Warning: Experts have warned that popular baby foods do contain vital nutrients (picture posed by actress)

Warning: Experts have warned that popular baby foods do contain vital nutrients (picture posed by actress)

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.

Research: Baby food is not providing enough calcium, iron, magnesium or zinc according to researchers

Research: Baby food is not providing enough calcium, iron, magnesium or zinc according to researchers

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.

University of Greenwich: Researchers at this university have been analysing the content of baby food

University of Greenwich: Researchers at this university have been analysing the content of baby food

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.’