New research has revealed three significant areas of concern in the current baby food market that has raised alarm among parents and health experts.
These are speech defects, teeth distortion and enamel erosion, and misleading labelling of sugar content in meals.
The research by children’s food brand Kiddylicious Little Bistro discovered that 70% of parents in the North were unaware that the use of spouts, typically found in baby food pouches, can have a detrimental effect on their baby’s speech development and teeth formation.
"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," said dentist Dr Nigel Carter.
"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."
44% of parents said that they would have reconsidered their purchase had they been aware of the teeth defects that baby foods with spouts can cause.
52% 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.
"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," said Emma Ahern, Speech and Language Therapist.
"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."
The research also found that over 17% of parents in the North have children under five-years-old who suffered from dental issues such as distorted teeth and tooth decay.
"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," said Dr Carter.
The research found that a significant reason for parents’ lack of understanding in this area is due to the misleading names of baby foods.
The parents questioned in the research demanded more information and support about the food currently on sale for their children, with 83% 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, along with minimal salt and sugar levels were the two most important factors when choosing baby food.