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Parents are often concerned about potential safety and nutritional differences between store-bought and homemade baby foods but research evaluating them is limited. Thus, samples from commercial, lab-made and home-made baby foods were analyzed in this pilot study to compare their microbial safety, nutritive value and residual pesticide levels.
Ten samples were collected per group, totalling thirty. Commercial samples were provided by a large-scale commercial manufacturer along with their corresponding recipes prepared in the laboratory and at home by ten different mothers in the Brampton and Guelph areas of Ontario, Canada.
Except for zinc, samples produced commercially, at the lab and at home had comparable mean contents for total energy, fat, carbohydrate, protein, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Homemade samples had higher mean zinc content than commercial baby foods (P<0.05). Commercial samples had the lowest bacterial growth (< 5 Cfu/g total plate counts). However, all baby food samples were microbiologically safe. At least one sample from all three groups contained pesticide residues. Peaches in all the three groups tested positive for N-methyl carbamate screen (oxamyl or carbaryl). However, the levels of pesticide residues found in all baby food samples were below government maximum residue limits.
Baby foods prepared commercially, in the laboratory and at home are similarly safe and nutritious. When preparing them at home, extra care should nevertheless be taken to prevent contamination since slight negligence can lead to serious health complications for the baby. Replication of findings in other jurisdictions and with a larger sampling frame would strengthen the generalizability of the study findings.