UK - New research suggests what we feed children under the age of five can affect their food choices in later life as this time is a crucial period in taste development, writes Lucy Towers.
Presenting some of her PhD research at the World Seafood Congress in Grimsby, UK, Sharon A. Carstairs, University of Aberdeen, explained that we need to increase fish consumption in the under five age group due to its huge health benefits and also as it may lead on to them continuing to enjoy seafood as they grow older.
According to data from 2010/11, 2-15 year old's in the UK have low regular seafood consumption.
Only 14 per cent of this age group consume oily fish at least once a week in comparison to adults (26 per cent).
Yet, 58 per cent consume red meat twice a week.
Looking into some of the reasons as to why seafood consumption is low in the under-five’s, Ms Carstairs explored what affects a mother’s buying decisions.
Firstly, Ms Carstairs identified that decision making is complex. However the most common reasons were to do with mothers buying what they or the family as a whole like, the concern over fish safety – such as bones, the cost, their shopping habit – i.e. they do not ever look at new products and that they did not always know what to do with fish or how to cook.
Surveying commercial pre-prepared baby foods in 2012, fish only accounted for 3.8 per cent of the foods available, far behind poultry and other meats which were over 30 per cent.
Looking at more recent data, fish is doing a little better with 6.1 per cent, but it is still far behind other meats.
Ms Carstairs spoke to manufacturers to find out why so few baby foods contain fish. The manufacturers responded with that there is a low demand for fish in baby food, that babies did not like the flavor and that they could not source it organically.
However maybe manufacturers need to start putting more fish into their products to create a demand or even to create a mixed meat product.
Looking at toddler cooking books and health leaflets from midwives, fish was incorporated more, but still behind other meats.
Whilst there tended to be a big push towards oily fish in the books/leaflets, Ms Carstairs also noted that in the guidance and outlook towards fish there were more negative comments than positive; mainly around safety, i.e. allergies and bones, and some even said to avoid until 12 months old.
Other meats had a much more balanced positive/negative, showing that more needs to be done to reverse this imbalance.
This can be done through better marketing of seafood products for children with a focus on the importance and health benefits of the products to children.