Baby Foods

Over 300 varieties of baby foods are available in North America to fulfill specific needs during the development of the infant. Recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other involved organizations are that baby foods be introduced at 4 to 6 months to supplement human milk or infant formula.

Several terms are used, somewhat interchangeably, to define baby foods: supplementary foods, biekost, and solid food. Other accurate classifications include strained fruit juices, infant cereal, fruits, vegetables, and numerous combination foods with fanciful names.

The first foods introduced are generally infant cereals. Infant cereal is a specific food: precooked, partially hydrolyzed, dried cereal-based food. In North America, infant cereal is fortified with iron, vitamins, and minerals. Infant cereal is fed in a diluted form with water, human milk, or infant formula used as a diluent. Ready-to-use cereal is also available, diluted and mixed with fruit for convenient and safe feeding.

Fruits and vegetables are essentially the pureed version of the food sterilized in a container to provide an appropriate serving size. Their container (serving) sizes range from approximately 70 to 135 g (2.5-4.5 oz) for subsequent forms. Fruit juices are strained, single-ingredient and combination juices provided in appropriate-sized containers, fortified with vitamin C at a uniform level.

Meat and poultry are provided in pureed form and sterilized in small containers. Numerous combination foods are prepared, largely for consumer convenience. The terminology used for combination foods is manufacturer specific and intended to be descriptive for the consumer.

Functionality

The functionality of infant foods generally refers to the consistency (as either a puree, liquid, or slurry). Consistency relates to the physical limitations of the infant and young child, but other characteristics are equally important to establish the appropriateness of baby foods for consumption. Among these are nutritional adequacy, particularly calories and protein, and concentration. If the concentration is too high, the food may stress the infant's developing renal system. If too dilute, the food may satisfy the volume requirements for the infant digestive system without provision of adequate nutrients.

Technologies

The technologies for baby foods have been adapted from food processing techniques, with specific modifications that allow the foods to fulfill the specific requirements for the intended purpose. The processes have evolved, and specific improvements in food science and food processing have been applied. Baby foods, as presently recognized, were developed between 1920 and 1930 by numerous manufacturers. Originally, the distribution for baby foods was entirely through pharmacies; after 1933 convenience was enhanced by distribution through food outlets, first grocery stores and then supermarkets. The technology originated in North America and did not expand to other parts of the world until after World War II.

Infant cereal was developed in 1933 as a partially hy-drolyzed, sterilized food prepared from flour and dried in a flake form to facilitate rapid dispersion. Pablum was the first widespread product and was the generic reference for infant cereal for many years. Supplemented with iron and water-soluble vitamins, it is a well-tolerated food used to supplement milk-based foods.

Canned baby foods are based on fruits, vegetables, and meats finely divided, or pureed. Baby foods were originally sterilized in 4- to 4.5-oz metal cans; conversion to glass containers was made in the period between 1955 and 1960. Combinations of fruit, vegetables, cereal, and meat have been made to provide convenience to the consumer.

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