Research: Many UK parents unaware about detrimental effects of spouted baby food on child’s development

Watch our video featuring health care experts giving their top tips and professional advice on how to marry the best convenience food with your baby’s developmental needs.

New research has revealed three significant areas of concern in the current baby food market that have raised alarm among parents, dentists, nutritionists and speech therapists alike: speech defects, teeth distortion, enamel erosion and misleading labeling of sugar content in meals.

The research, commissioned by children’s food brand Kiddylcious Little Bistro, discovered that 71% of parents in the UK were unaware that the use of spouts, typically found on baby food pouches, can have a detrimental effect on their baby’s speech development and teeth formation. Shockingly, 11% of the over 200,000 UK parents surveyed had or have children under five years old who suffer from dental issues such as distorted teeth or tooth decay.

Unsurprisingly, two-thirds (66%) of parents admitted that they would have reconsidered their purchase had they been made aware of the teeth defects that baby foods with spouts can cause. 58% of parents were also unaware of the critical importance of the presence of soft chunks, of approximately 8mm for children from around seven months, to encourage chewing, as well as jaw muscle and speech development.

The research found that a significant reason for parents’ lack of understanding in this area is due to the misleading names of baby foods.

Parents are demanding more information and support about the food currently on sale for their children, with 75% calling for more information and education, as well as baby food manufacturers to be more responsible and honest.  An overhaul of the baby food market was demanded after parents stated that nutrition alongside minimal salt and sugar levels were the two most important factors when choosing baby food.

For all this and more watch our video featuring experts Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Dentist and CEO of the Oral Health Foundation and Chair of Platform for Better Oral Health in Europe; Emma Ahern, Speech and Language Therapist; and Dr Emma Derbyshire, Public Health Nutritionist and Health Writer, as we explore this issue more in depth.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Dentist, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation and Chair of Platform for Better Oral Health in Europe comments:

Spouts, which are featured on the packaging of some convenience foods, may cause problems with the correct development of teeth with poor positioning and crowding. Prolonged sucking on spouts could lead to the upper jaw failing to grow properly which may cause crowding of the teeth, which could result in a need for braces or orthodontic treatments later on.

Just like with valved and hard spout drinking bottles, spouted baby foods should be discouraged and we suggest parents encourage their children to start free flow drinking from an early age and to focus on earlier food eating, rather than relying on smooth purees and spouted food products.

The use of food spouts can cause the food and liquid to pool behind the teeth rather than being directly swallowed, concentrating the sugar and acid in the area where it causes the most harm.

Emma Ahern, Speech and Language Therapist, comments:

Spouts restrict the passing of larger yet suitably sized, soft chunks of food for children around the age of seven months, which is important to encourage regular chewing patterns. Critically, chewing helps to increase the strength, coordination and control of the all-important jaw muscles as well as the tongue and the lips that children need early on to help promote future speech development

The development of these muscles through chewing can be really beneficial for clear speech production in the future. With regular chewing practice children can begin to develop the range of movement and coordination of their facial muscles and structures which in turn can support their production of sounds in speech.

Dr Emma Derbyshire, Public Health Nutritionist and Health Writer, comments:

Many baby meals have a very high fruit content, but are not always clearly labeled as such. This high fruit content causes the purees and meals to be very acidic, which results in a low pH level which can contribute to enamel erosion.

It’s essential that we’re feeding our children nutritionally balanced meals filled with good quality protein for muscle development, iron to support brain and cognitive development, and lots of vegetables to develop young taste buds and avoid fussy eaters in the future.

It goes without saying, but always read the label to check serving sizes and be sure to pay special attention to the sugar or fruit content, which isn’t always clearly labeled. Try to pick foods that are a good source of protein and iron, and try to avoid those that have more trans-fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and sugars.

Sally Preston, founder, Kiddylicious Little Bistro comments:

I think what’s key here is transparency. Parents are demanding more honest food naming, labeling and information, particularly regarding the impact of spouts, hidden fruit sugars and nutritional values; problems that this new research has brought to light. As a result, food manufacturers, particularly those producing children’s products, must communicate more clearly about what is in their products and be much more responsible with their marketing.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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