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Good Nutrition for the Highchair Set

(page 2 of 5)

Many parents who prepare their own baby foods at home do so out of concern that commercial products contain added salt, sugar, and other additives. A certain amount of sodium is necessary to an infant's health, but excessive intake can be harmful. Before 1970, baby food in jars often contained added sodium in the form of salt and monosodium glutamate (MSG). However, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Pediatrics found that the amount of sodium in baby foods was often far in excess of what a baby's body needs and that additives (other than vitamins and minerals) were not necessary to a baby's good nutrition. In response to these findings and to the growing concern that high sodium intake early in life might lead to high blood pressure later on, manufacturers of baby food began to limit the amount of sodium they added to their products. By 1978, they had entirely stopped adding MSG and salt to products intended for babies under one year.

Concerns about sugar and other additives, such as preservatives, have motivated manufacturers to limit the amount of these substances added to their products. Today, commercially prepared baby foods rarely contain preservatives and sterilization during the manufacturing process contributes to their long shelf life. In most lines of baby food, refined sugar is added only to custards and puddings.

The FDA regulates the labeling of all baby foods (with the exception of strained meats, which come under the jurisdiction of U.S. Department of Agriculture). The FDA requires labeling on "infant" food (for babies under one year) to be more complete than that of other foods so that parents can be well-informed about what they are feeding their child. While the labeling of other foods may list spices and additives in general and non-specific terms, the labels on infant food must list each ingredient by name, including each spice, flavoring and coloring. In addition, the labeling must specify the plant or animal source of an ingredient. For example, rather than vegetable oil, the label must say "coconut oil" or "palm oil." As with other foods, ingredients are listed in descending order of predominance. Most manufacturers also include on the label the amounts (or percentages of U.S. RDAs) of calories, protein, carbohydrates, fat, sodium, vitamins, and minerals.

Along with solid foods, many parents begin giving their baby fruit juices at about 6 to 7 months of age. Initially, fruit juices for babies were sold in cans. However, concern about lead from the cans seeping into the juice after the can was opened and left partly filled caused manufacturers to switch to small glass bottles. (Unopened cans do not pose this problem.) Juices marketed for babies are usually fortified with vitamin C (as are many strained fruits), and most brands do not contain added refined sugar.

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