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Baby Food News

Written by Randall Neustaedter, O.M.D.   
Monday, 01 March 2004 00:00

Here’s the punch line. Make your own baby food.

Here’s a new compelling reason. The European Food Safety Authority (equivalent to the FDA) announced that baby food jars contain a substance known to cause cancer and liver damage. The chemical, called semicarbazide, is found in the sealing gaskets of glass jars with metal lids. The chemical leaches into the foods contained in these jars. Other foods besides that older children consume are also contaminated with the chemical (pickles, jams, fruit juice, and mayonnaise). I have written before about the increased susceptibility of infants and children to carcinogens. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has drafted an assessment of cancer risk from toxic exposure in children. Based on animal studies and the dynamic action of carcinogens, the report estimates that children under two years of age are ten times more likely to develop cancer from exposure to carcinogens than adults, and children between ages 2 and 15 are three times as likely. Those types of estimates have led the European safety community to jump on the potential danger of baby food jars.

The European Food Authority’s chair, Dr. Sue Barlow, said, “It would be prudent to reduce the presence of semicarbazide in baby foods as swiftly as technological progress allows.” According to BBC News a joint food and packaging industry task force was formed in the UK to eliminate semicarbazide from the metal twist caps used with glass jars.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has denied any dangers from exposure to the chemical, advising consumers not to avoid food packaged in glass jars. “At this time, FDA’s preliminary conclusion is that the levels of semicarbazide reported in foods in Europe are very low and present no risk to the public health,” the agency said in a statement. Nonetheless, according to an Associated Press report, “American manufacturer Heinz, which makes baby food and other products in jars, said it is already testing alternative caps and hopes to have new baby food jars—free of the chemical—on supermarket shelves worldwide within six months.”

I encourage parents to make their own baby food from organic vegetables, fruits, grains, and meats. An excellent book does exist that gives detailed instructions for home preparation of foods for children aged 5 months to 3 years (Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron, F.J. Roberts Publisher, 608 pages, 1998). I agree with most of her methods except for the use of microwaves for heating foods, a certain hypervigilance about microbes, and the early introduction of cereals. Besides the risk from this specific chemical exposure, jars of prepared baby food are lower in vitamin content than homemade food and much more expensive.

Pathways Issue 1 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #01.

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