Baby foods - too much sugar and too little iron
24 July 2015
The high sugar content of commercial baby foods has been flagged as a concern in a study of products in Australian supermarkets.
Researchers from Sydney University caution that while most baby foods do not include added sugar, the majority contain fruit to meet young children’s inbuilt preference for sweet tastes. This contributes to excess energy intake and the development of tooth decay and dental cavities.
Nonetheless, the researchers say the majority of baby foods sold in Australia “are of high nutritional quality”.
The consumption of commercial baby foods can be as high as 90% at 9 months of age, report the researchers, who are concerned that ready-made products are replacing more nutrient-dense foods.
The study highlights a noticeable absence of fortification with micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) among some of the most popular brands and a lack of nutritional information on labels, with only 1 in 20 giving the iron content on the label.
“Given that the Infant Feeding Guidelines advise parents to start with iron-containing foods during the introduction of solids and that an increasing number of consumers are using commercial infant and baby foods, declaring the content of micronutrients on-pack would be an important addition to help consumers select healthier products within this food,” write the researchers in the journal Maternal Child Health.
Of the 341 products analysed, almost a third were considered “high” in total sugar. Dry finger foods were higher in sodium than soft foods, with the 10 highest sodium products coming from this category. Less than a third of all products were fortified with at least one micronutrient.
Despite this finding, they note baby and toddler foods have been overlooked in public policy discussion and that their relatively high sugar content requires close attention.