UK lagging in baby food battle
New research has found Australian baby and toddler food products are of a higher nutritional quality than those in the UK.
Senior author Professor Victoria Flood from the University of Sydney said the study, which examined 309 products from 17 manufacturers, showed Australia performing better than some other countries including the UK.
“The nutritional quality of baby and toddler foods has been largely overlooked in health research, but it is an increasingly important market to consider,” Prof Flood said.
“Our youngest children need the best possible start when they are naturally moved onto solid foods and begin to develop their habits and tastes.
“Only Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada have published research on the healthiness of their baby and toddler foods, with UK and Canada showing higher levels of sodium and sugar overall than we have in similar products in Australia,.”
Director of the Food Policy division at the George Institute for Global Health, Professor Bruce Neal, said the toddler and baby food market was growing rapidly and this study provided an important benchmark to monitor changes in the sector.
“The market has grown at 4.8% a year for the past five years and is worth more than $300 million a year in Australia,” Prof Neal said.
“Part of the increase in this market can be attributed to time-poor parents needing to make quick food decisions and that isn’t likely to change any time soon, so we need to get it right.”
The findings, which have been published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal show:
- Only 19 products or 6% were high in saturated fat
- 92 products or 30% were considered high in sugar
- 72 products or 23% contained added sugar
- Salt was on the ingredient list for just 17 products and only five were considered high in sodium
- Only 25 products or just 8% had a Health Star Rating of less than 3 stars, while 45% were 4 out of 5 stars
Professor Flood said the taste preferences of infants meant that their eating habits should be carefully monitored in their early years.
“Young children naturally prefer sweet and salty foods over those with less sweet tastes such as vegetables,” she said.
“Commercial baby foods are consumed by as many as 90% of children at nine months old and 50% of 18 month olds.
“So, the impact of these foods on children cannot be overestimated and we encourage all parents to pay close attention to what they are putting in their supermarket trolleys.”