[Processed baby foods for infants and young children: a dietary advance? A position paper by the Committee on Nutrition of the French Society of Paediatrics].Arch Pediatr. 2013 May; 20(5):523-32.AP
Processed baby foods designed for infants (4-12 months) and toddlers (12-36 months) (excluding infant formula, follow-on formula, the so-called growing-up milks, and cereal-based foods for infants), which are referred to as baby foods, are specific products defined by a European regulation (Directive 2006/125/CE). According to this Directive, such foods have a composition adapted to the nutritional needs of children of this age and should comply with specifications related to food safety in terms of ingredients, production processes, and prevention of infectious and toxicological hazards. Hence, they differ from ordinary foods and from non-specific processed foods. This market segment includes the full range of foods that can be part of children's diet: dairy products (dairy desserts, yoghurts, and fresh cheese), sweet products (nondairy desserts, fruit, and drinks), and salty products (soups, vegetable-based foods, meat, fish, and full dishes). This market amounted to 89,666 MT in France in 2011 and 83,055 MT in 2010 (a total of 325,524 MT in the 27 countries of the European Union in 2010, including 90,438 MT in Germany, 49,144 MT in Spain, and 40,438 MT in Italy). The consumption of baby foods in France varies with infant age and parental choice. Baby foods account for 7 % of total energy intake at 4-5 months, 28 % at 6-7 months, 27 % at 8-11 months, 17 % at 1-17 months, and 11 % at 18-24 months. Among parents, 24 % never offer their children any baby foods, 13 % do so 1-3 days/week and 63 % 4-7 days/week. Among consumers, 55 % of children eat more than 250 g/day of baby foods. As baby foods only account for a minor fraction of overall food intake, their impact on the quality of young children's diet is much less than that of growing-up milks, particularly for preventing insufficient iron and vitamin D intake. Their consumption, however, has an indirect benefit on the nutritional quality of the diet and on food safety, particularly regarding toxicological hazards, as it postpones the introduction of non-specific processed foods, which are inadequate for this age group owing to both their nutritional composition and lower food safety control. Baby foods represent a family of products meeting parents' expectations and adapted to infants and young children. They are clearly beneficial in terms of food safety, but the nutritional benefit to be expected from their consumption is minimal: their main advantage is postponing or decreasing the consumption of non-specific industrially processed foods.