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Viv Groskop: It's not baby food that's bad for babies...


Another day, another story to strike fear into the heart of any guilty middle-class parent. A study by the University of Greenwich has found that "top-selling baby foods lack vital nutrients essential for growth and protection against illness". The results are reported as a "warning" by "experts". Quick. Put a lid on that jar of puréed cottage pie.

Dr Nazanin Zand, author of the study published in the journal Food Chemistry, says: "The Government has focused on the importance of breastfeeding and the health of school meals but has neglected baby foods given inbetween." That at least is interesting. In fact, it's headline news. The Government has got something right. If there is one thing I cannot be bothered to berate them for, it is their inattention in the baby food department.

The truth about the study is that it's a super-geeky analysis of the mineral content of processed baby food using a machine called an inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometer. I actually like the sound of this machine. "Who will dare to question the spectrometer?" And maybe the scientists' findings will be useful for food manufacturers.

What's worrying is that there's a growing appetite for reporting these things as if they really matter. And that appetite exists because of parents' worst fears: that they're no good. How has it come to this? Spectrometers and busybodies everywhere are spoiling the fun of parenting.

Baby food is just the latest in a series of things you can mess up. The type of birth you have, the method of milk distribution (and the nature of the milk), your employment status (if you're a woman), your household TV use, whether you use Calpol or Nurofen, go state or private, or correctly complied with all the elements of this morning's self-flagellation ritual.

There is a huge market for stories which pit parents against each other or use science to "prove" that something parents are doing is evil and dangerous. Meanwhile, normal people muddle through however best they can, using jars some of the time and hand-mushing carrots the rest. The only difference is that nowadays they do it with a constant backdrop of carping, tutting and comparison.

The real story? Baby food is not bad for babies. The constant stream of judgement directed against parents is what's bad for babies. Don't stress about breast versus bottle or the lack of minerals in baby food. Stress about the dismantling of the NHS. That is far more likely to ruin our children's lives than the odd jar of Heinz cauliflower cheese. And unfortunately no spectrometer will be there to save us.

The modern way to bag a prince

The emergence of "Harry Hunting" as a teen sport is perplexing. This is the trend for girls to semi-stalk Prince Harry in the hope he will spot them and they'll bag themselves a prince, Kate Middleton-style.

The US press is already obsessed with these girls, flying reporters over to stalk the adolescent stalkers. They are usually the mid-teen daughters of upper-middle-class types with easy access to London's King's Road. Now Channel 4 has filmed a documentary about them, First Cut: Marrying Prince Harry, which airs tonight.

Their pursuit is curiously innocent. They picket charity awards ceremonies where Harry is rumoured to appear. They go to Sloane Square Starbucks because there was once an alleged sighting. Meanwhile, Ladbrokes cites their odds at 1,000-1. Hey, it's better odds than the lottery. So good luck to them.