Research Says Baby Food Pouches Are Extra Sweet and Low in Iron

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The University of Otago's Department of Human Nutrition made a study that tested the nutritional quality of baby food pouches in most supermarkets. The data, which include results around extra sweet and iron content, have been published in the Nutrients journal.

From their findings, one of the most vital results was learning that food pouches are very low in iron. A baby would need to eat more than 14 food pouches per day to get their much-needed iron supply. That is almost two kilos of baby food pouches. 

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The research findings

Ioanna Katiforis, the research lead, said that it is vital for babies to eat baby food rich in iron, mainly when they are six months old. On the other hand, their research found out that food pouches across the board did not contain the right amount of iron, nor were they fortified with iron. She said that this could place them at risk of lack of iron if they do not receive iron from other sources. 

Other than the results about iron, the research also found that baby food and food pouches are extra sweet than others. The reason is that they are more likely to contain sweet fruits and vegetables like apples, kumara, and pumpkin. 

On baby food

Katoforis said that whatever parents feed their baby, whether commercial baby foods or homemade, they should offer foods from different food groups. They should not offer foods based on extra sweet fruits and vegetables. Besides, they need to make sure that babies are eating iron-rich foods to meet their iron needs. 

Although baby food for child health is vital, there has been a lack of study and research. There have been no studies that report on how much sugar is there in baby food pouches. To address this knowledge gap, the research team surveyed 266 baby foods sold in supermarkets from 2019 to 2020. Half of these were baby food pouches. 

They studied the energy, iron, vitamin B12, total sugars (this includes natural sweet fruits and vegetables), added sugar content of baby food pouches, and other forms of commercial baby foods. 

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Baby food pouches content

Baby food pouches contained the same amount of energy, iron, and vitamin B12 as other forms of commercial baby foods. And although baby food pouches were extra sweet - because they were more likely to contain sweet fruits and vegetables - they were not more likely to have sugar added to them. 

In total, baby foods sold were low in sugar, except for custards and sweet snacks for babies that are sometimes disguised as "fruit juice concentrate."

Dry infant cereals are a vital source of iron for babies because they are fortified with iron. But none of the baby food pouches were. So, eating baby food pouches to exclude other commercial baby foods may place babies at risk of lacking iron if they do not get enough iron from other sources. 

The research team is waiting for the results of the ongoing research, which is now looking at whether food pouches affect the number of energy babies consume. 

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