Processed foods like bread, gravy, baked beans, cow's milk and canned spaghetti are contributing to a salt epidemic of mini proportions - namely among eight-month-old babies.
In a report released July 31 by the University of Bristol, 70 percent of 1,200 babies studied had a higher salt intake than the recommended maximum level in the UK, researchers said - an intake that can have significant consequences later on.
Putting babies on solids is a "critical developmental time" for incorporating variety and establishing appropriate feeding and eating habits, researchers wrote. But parents may be overlooking a key nutritional trap and over-salting their babies.
High levels of salt intake so early in life can not only damage kidneys but can also prematurely give children a taste for salty foods and predispose them to poor eating habits that carry on into adulthood.
In addition to being fed salt-laden processed foods, many of the babies were also given cow's milk which has higher levels of salt than breast milk or formula - despite the fact that cow's milk isn't recommended until babies are at least 12 months old.
Among those with the highest levels of salt - the mean intake was a whopping 1,060 mg per day - many of the infants were often given cow's milk as their main drink.
Cow's milk has 55mg of salt per 100ml while breast milk has 15mg of sodium per 100g. Formula has 15-30 mg per 100ml.
Compared to the lowest group they were also given three times the amount of bread, which contains more salty flavorings like yeast extract. Other salty foods fed to the highest group included gravy, canned spaghetti and baked beans.
Data was culled from three-day dietary records of infants born in 1991 and 1992 from a previous study out of the University of Bristol, entitled "Children of the 90s." The study was published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Following researchers' findings, the report calls for "clear and practical" education on complementary feeding practices for parents - what foods to introduce and when. The study also calls on manufacturers to reduce the sodium content in food products.
Meanwhile, according to reports presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions last year, reducing salt intake by 3 grams a day as a teenager - the highest salt-consuming age group - could reduce high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke in adulthood.
Here are the daily recommended maximum amounts of salt as per the UK's National Health Service.
Salt can also be called sodium chloride on nutritional labels. The simple way to determine salt levels from sodium is: salt = sodium x 2.5.
1 to 3 years: 2g salt a day (0.8g sodium)
4 to 6 years: 3g salt a day (1.2g sodium)
7 to 10 years: 5g salt a day (2g sodium)
11 years and over: 6g salt a day (2.4g sodium)