Babies need the best nutrition during the first few years of their life. It’s crucial to ensure that your little munchkin is getting all that he/she needs to grow up to be a healthy and happy kid. Most babies start consuming solid foods around 6 months of age. Baby food is either supplemented along with breast milk or when the baby is weaned off from mother’s milk. However, are these baby foods that we so blindly trust doing more harm than good? In this article, we talk about the toxic chemicals found in most baby foods and what parents can do to ensure their baby stays toxin-free.
Toxic Contaminants Found In Baby Foods
A Swedish study found toxic chemicals such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium in baby foods that are given to wean babies off breastmilk. The researchers tested several baby foods and formula milk for levels of toxic contaminants in them. Rice products were one food that was found to have relatively high levels of arsenic in it. However, the extent of harm that it can cause is yet to be understood (1).
The research was carried out on baby foods that are intended to be given in the first 6 months of a baby’s life. Though exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months of an infant’s life, approximately two-thirds of babies are given some sort of solids starting at 4 months of age.
In order to understand the baby’s exposure to various elements, the researchers measured the levels of toxic and essential elements in baby formula and baby foods that are intended to be fed within the first 6 months of their life. The Swedish researchers also assessed the levels of toxic elements that include antimony, cadmium, lead, arsenic, and uranium. They also assessed concentrations of essential elements such as zinc, copper, magnesium, iron, calcium, manganese, selenium, and molybdenum.
Nine infant food and infant formulas were examined that were meant for consumption after 4 months. They looked at infant formulas such as organic milk, plain milk, breast milk, soy protein formula, semolina, oats, whole grain rice, and spelt flour. The concentration of different elements was then compared to that of breast milk to get a clear understanding of how they differ from each other.
The research found a huge difference in the concentration of these elements in baby food and baby formula due to the ingredients used in each. Fortified food items were found to contain high levels of essential elements than breastmilk. It also appeared that certain formulas had higher concentrations of iron, manganese, and molybdenum. Whereas the essential element selenium was very low in some formulas. What concerned the researchers the most was the high concentration of arsenic in rice-based foods. They also highlighted the fact that certain formulas had very high levels of essential elements such as iron (2).
This wasn’t the first time that research was done to find the levels of toxic substances in baby foods. A committee was set up by the UK’s Food Standard Agency to find out how these elements might affect babies. The agency concluded that the presence of environmental contaminants such as cadmium was not a concern for the baby’s health. However, they suggested keeping the levels of lead and arsenic low.
Here’s What Parents Can Do
As parents, we have the best interest in our minds when it comes to our babies. And now that we have learned how these infant foods can be harmful to our children, here’s what you can do:
- Avoid giving rice-based foods such as rice snacks and rice drinks. Instead, opt for non-rice cereals and drinks.
- Stop relying completely on food types that may contain higher levels of toxins.
- Avoid products with artificial colors and additives.
- Prepare baby food by steaming and pureeing fruits and vegetables.
- Ensure your kid has a varied diet.
It is easy to get paranoid when we realize the food we are giving to our babies may not be 100% safe, but the idea is to stay informed and find ways we can ensure a healthy diet for our baby. Taking baby steps by reading labels and avoiding certain foods can go a long way toward a healthier life.