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Are baby foods as innocent as they may look?



Are baby foods as innocent as they may look? - Volume 77 Issue OCE3 - C.J. Geraghty, S. Taleghani, S. O'Mahony, O.C. Lyons, C.M. Donovan, C.B. O'Donovan, M.A.T. Flynn
Irish Section Meeting, 2022 June 2018, Targeted approaches to tackling current nutritional issues
Are baby foods as innocent as they may look?
C.J. Geraghty
, S. Taleghani
, O.C. Lyons
, C.M. Donovan
C.B. ODonovan
and M.A.T. Flynn
Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Dublin, Republic of Ireland and
Nutrition Innovation Centre for Food and Health,
Ulster University, Coleraine, BT52 1SA, UK
Guidelines for best infant feeding practice in Ireland recommend that foods given during the rst year of life should be plain, with
minimal added sugar, fat or salt
. A 2011 survey of commercially available baby foods (targeting infants <12 months) found
that 15% were inappropriate due to levels of added fat, sugar or salt and a lack of essential nutrients
. The aim of this study was
to examine baby foodsmarketed in Ireland in 2017 and assess if market trends are more in line with best practice recommendations,
compared with baby foods available in 2011.
A comprehensive survey of commercially available baby foods marketed in Ireland was conducted between August and November
2017, using methods similar to those of the 2011 survey
. Data collected included product name, brand, targeted age group (months),
meal type, portion size, presence of gluten and nutritional information per 100 g. In addition, the presence of nutrition and health
claims and saturated fat content was collected in 2017. Baby foods primarily based on cereal, milk or fruit were deemed appropriate.
All other baby foods were compared, in terms of their fat, saturated fat and sugar content, with best versions (e.g. reduced fat or
sugar) of adult foods. Baby foods that matched adult foods which are not recommended for healthy eating (e.g. biscuits, crisps)
were categorised as inappropriate. All baby foods were classied into meal types and compared with those available in 2011 in
terms of their nutritional content (see table below).
In 2017, 481 baby foods were identied compared with 441 in 2011. As shown in table above, there was an overall tendency for
baby foods to be signicantly lower in salt and have a reduced sugar content, particularly drinks. In 2017 compared with 2011, a
74% reduction in drinks (p < 0·001) and a 72% increase in the number of snacks (p < 0·001) was observed. Among snacks (n174),
the majority (74%) were assessed as inappropriate mainly due to the large number of biscuits (n15) and crisps (n19) available. The
majority (76%) of baby crisps were found to be higher in saturated fat compared with adult reduced fatcrisps, while 67% of
baby biscuits were higher in sugar than plain digestive biscuits. In 2017 vs. 2011, a signicantly higher proportion of baby foods avail-
able on the Irish market were deemed to be inappropriate (25% vs. 15%). A 51% increase in the number of breakfast cereals was
observed in 2017 vs. 2011 almost half (48%), were deemed to be inappropriate due to high levels of added sugar. The proportions
of appropriate and inappropriate baby foods bearing claims were comparable.
While some improvements in baby foods marketed in Ireland in 2017 compared with 2011 were evident (e.g. reduced salt, higher
bre), there was an overall increase in baby foods deemed to be inappropriate. The increasing trend of sugary breakfast cereals and
inappropriate snacks (e.g. crisps and biscuits) available as baby foods is worrying. This study informs work at EU level revising legis-
lation regulating baby foods. Parents and caregivers need guidance when choosing baby foods, as some may not be as innocent as they
1. Food Safety Authority of Ireland (2012) Best Practice for Infant Feeding in Ireland. Dublin: Food Safety Authority of Ireland; Available from (Accessed 3
October 2017)
2. Bennett A, OConnor A, Flynn MAT et al. (2012) Irish Medical Journal 105, 266268.
Per 100 g Energy (kcals) Fat (g) Sugar ( g) Fibre (g) Salt (g)
2011 2017 2011 2017 2011 2017 2011 2017 2011 2017
Breakfast 135 394** 3·15·311·219·01·42·5* 0·10·0
(64427) (54500) (014) (046) (048) (046) (011) (012) (00·4) (00·7)
Lunch/Dinner 66 63** 2·01·9** 2·12·4* 1·41·6** 0·10·1**
(27418) (26416) (013) (08) (011) (012) (08) (08) (02·3) (01)
Dessert 68 66 0·60·510·710·2* 1·31·7** 0·10·0**
(44433) (41435) (012) (012) (342) (037) (06) (08) (00·3) (00·3)
Snack 74 80 1·21·111·710·61·81·8* 0·1 0**
(44457) (41532) (016) (029) (043) (046) (07) (017) (01) (01·5)
Drink 32 19** 0·10·27·74·1** 0 0* 0·10
(11280) (823) (07) (00) (269) (15) (01) (00) (00·3) (00)
Values are presented as Median (Minimum-Maximum). The differences between baby foods available in 2011 and 2017 were assessed using Mann-Whitney U Test
where signicance is denoted as *p < 0·05, **p < 0·01
Proceedings of the Nutrition Society (2018), 77 (OCE3), E81 doi:10.1017/S002966511800085X
Proceedings of the Nutrition Society
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