April 17, 2012
Commercially Available Baby Food Falls Short On Vital Minerals and Micro-Nutrients
Commercially available baby foods may contain less that 20% of the recommended levels of many minerals and micro-nutrients, according to new research that suggests industry should be doing more to improve the nutritive value of foods infants.
The study -- published in Food Chemistry -- reveals that the micro-nutrient content of ready-made baby meals has 'considerable variability' and could contain less than a fifth of the recommended daily supply of calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron and other minerals.
Chemicals in baby food have often been another problem interfering with absorption of these minerals. A project started by the German National Research Centre for Environment and Health (GSF) focuses in particular on chemicals which affect the hormone system.
"Chemicals in commercial baby food have a greater impact on the still embryonic tissue of a growing child than on the tissue of an adult who has stopped growing," said Karl-Werner Schramm, a GSF spokesperson.
"All the food samples studied in this work contained less essential minerals than expected from the RNI [Recommended Nutrient Intake] values except for potassium in meat and vegetable based recipes," said the researchers, led by Led by Dr Nazanin Zand from the University of Greenwich, UK.
Zand and her team added that their results suggest commercial complementary infant foods on the UK market "may not contain the minimum levels of minerals required for the labelling declaration of micronutrient content (Commission Directive 2006/125/EC).
"This may be one of the reasons why manufacturers of complementary 'ready to eat' infant meals do not declare the micronutrient contents of their products," said Zand.
The UK based researcher said the investigation shows a need to improve the nutritional value of some complementary baby feeds -- in addition to tightening the regulations governing such foods to make them 'more robust'.
However, Zand said the results of the study may also provide industry with opportunities and scope for both product and process optimisations that could improve the nutritive value of formulations.
The research team took eight samples of commercially available products, produced by four popular brands in the UK.
"All brands were represented by two different product categories: (i) meat based and (ii) vegetable based; these were semi-pureed and packed in glass jars," explained Zand and her team -- noting that specific manufacturers were not identified
Upon investigation of the micro-nutrient content, the team found that infants given one meat jar and one vegetable jar on top of 600ml of formula milk would not be getting enough calcium, magnesium, copper and selenium. On average, the levels were below 20% of the recommended daily supply, they said.
"The results from the analyses...indicate a considerable variability between samples with respect to mineral content, which are due to the proportion of different ingredients used in the composition of the foods," said the researchers.
"With reference to the guidelines, the RNI values for 6--9 months old, all samples provided less than 20% of RNI values except for potassium [which provided 20%]," they added.
Zand and her colleagues said that it is apparent that as such complementary baby foods, when added to the daily milk supply, do not meet the recommended daily intake.
"It's so important that babies are weaned from six months onwards with a healthy balance of complementary foods and breast milk, or follow-on formula at times when breast feeding is not possible," said the nutrition expert.