Baby foods research attracts international attention

Date of release: Friday, April 13, 2012

Dr Nazanin Zand Research into essential nutrients in baby foods conducted at the University of Greenwich is attracting national and international media attention.

Reports have appeared this week in national newspapers, online and on Facebook after research in the university’s School of Science revealed that micro-nutrient content in ready-made baby meals contained less than a fifth of the recommended daily supply of calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron and other minerals.

Initial interest was generated by an article in the Daily Mail, which can be viewed at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2125332/Shop-bought-baby-foods-lack-vital-nutrients-essential-growth-protection-illness.html.

A host of international websites have now featured the university’s work.

The research took eight different sample jars produced by four popular brands from the shelves of leading supermarkets and investigated the micro-nutrient content, using an instrument called an Inductivity Coupled Plasma-Optical Emission Spectrometer, which is used for analysis of elements in food. The samples included four meat and four vegetable varieties, one with pasta, but specific manufacturers were not identified.

The research showed 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.

In her concluding report, the university’s food science and nutrition specialist, Dr Nazanin Zand, who conducted the research, said it was apparent that these complementary baby foods, when added to the daily milk supply, do not meet the recommended daily intake.

She added: “This may be one of the reasons why manufacturers of complementary ‘ready to eat’ infant meals do not declare the micro-nutrient contents of their products. This may provide opportunities and scope for both product and process optimisations to improve the nutritive value.

“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.

“Our investigations showed that there was a need to improve the nutritional value of some complementary baby feeds. In addition, the regulations governing them need to be tighter and more robust.”

The report was published in Food Chemistry Journal.

To find out more about Dr Zand’s work, see her profile on the university website at http://www2.gre.ac.uk/about/schools/science/about/departments/lifesport/staff/dr-nazanin-zand

Story by Public Relations

Picture: Dr Nazanin Zand.

Notes for Editors

European Union regulations require 15% of the reference values for each nutrient to be provided for labelling purposes.

The reference values are based on Recommended Nutrient Intakes, which are laid down by the Department for Health.