Would your child choose fish with fennel or porridge?

Designer babyfoods are aimed at guilty parents says Ruth Picardie

It had to happen. After premium nappies and Heinz purified water with a hint of strawberry (42p for 100ml), Britain's first designer babyfood is about to hit a supermarket near you. Developed with the help of Mark Hix, executive chef at The Ivy and Le Caprice, the Original Fresh Babyfood range is "natural", "healthy", packed with fresh herbs and starts at 99p for 100g. Four-month-olds may like to start their evening meal with Sweet Potato and Carrot with a Hint of Cinnamon followed by Rice with Courgette and a Little Banana. Seven-month-olds can move on to Mushroom and Sweet Pepper Risotto (served with honey and a pinch of turmeric) or perhaps the Baked Fish with Fennel and Potato ("succulent small bites of hoki and potato subtly flavoured with fennel and dill"), both pounds 1.29 for 175gm.

Once upon a time babies sucked rum from their pacifiers and munched maltodextrin - the monosodium glutamate of the babyfood world - in their powdered food. Then the middle-classes discovered healthy eating and good mothers were urged to spend their nights pureeing organic carrots and freezing them in individually labelled cubes. Actress Leslie Ash, an example to us all, preferred her children, Joseph and Max, to have "fresh juice and steamed vegetables every day". Liz Earle, the author of the Quick Guide to Baby & Toddler Foods (Boxtree), suggested mothers bake potato skins instead of buying crisps and eschew iced cakes and biscuits for "a snack of popcorn tossed with sunflower seeds and soy sauce". If we failed, parents were saved from NCT coventry by feeding their loved ones Baby Organix muesli - almost as good as the real thing and only three times the price. Now we can feel even less guilty, with fresh Creamy Parsnip and Potato "delicately flavoured with cumin and coriander".

Clearly, babyfood for the guilty middle-classes is big business: the creators of the range, Keith and Belinda Mitchell, may be a "real" couple whose fashionably named tots Oscar and Clementine feature prominently on the press release, but they are hard-headed business people who believe there is a pounds 20m market for fresh baby food, of which they can grab pounds 6m. Similarly, Tesco is now selling "child-sized cherry tomatoes" packaged like sweets, price 49p for a 100g tube (that's pounds 2 per lb in old money). But to paraphrase Shirley Conran, if life's too short to stuff a mushroom then there's certainly no time to make Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese (With a Hint of Nutmeg), only for it to be comprehensively smeared in baby's hair and then thrown on the floor. If M&S food (delicious, convenient, expensive) is an essential part of adult life, why not indulge your babies, too?

Unfortunately, the babyfood business is full of backlashes: today's healthy food (honey, soya milk, peanuts) is tomorrow's killer (bacteria, infertility, allergies). And here comes another one.

" 'Fresh' is like 'natural', I'm afraid," says Tom Sanders, professor of nutrition and dietetics at King's College, London. "Meaningless. Nutrients are nutrients. It doesn't make any difference how they're processed, given that vitamins are added to bottled food."

But there's worse to come. "This range appears to be applying adult nutritional values - ie low fat and nice taste - to babies, which is not appropriate. The important thing is to have a source of iron, since anaemia is a significant problem in infants. And the best source of that is meat. In any case, with weaning you should start with one flavour at a time, to minimise the risk of triggering allergies. Lack of variety is a good thing."

"Quite honestly," confirms Dr Jackie Stordy, senior lecturer in nutrition at Surrey University, "courgettes aren't going to help the child much. They might be what the parents are eating, but vegetable purees tend to have a low energy density and infants need calories and other nutrients in a more concentrated form. Vitamin C deficiency is almost never a problem, but studies have shown that parents who are focused on weight loss underfeed their children. Up to 5 per cent of paediatric admissions are for slow growth."

But doesn't it at least taste nice - the all important value for the fussy baby, to whom we are desperate to feed something, even lowly courgette? "A baby's palate is not concerned with nuances of taste in the way adult palates are," says Ursula Arens, senior nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation. "A six-month-old is not going to get excited about cumin and coriander." The message? Let them eat Weetabix and Heinz beef strog. "Commercial baby foods are better than the stuff mothers prepare at home," says Tom Sanders. "They're sterile, with less salt, and added iron. Look at kids today: bloody enormous." The only problemette for the guilty mum? A bug called BSE.

Suggested Topics
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Commercial Litigation NQ+

    Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...

    MANCHESTER - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION -

    Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

    Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

    Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

    £90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

    Day In a Page

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?