London - Top-selling baby foods lack vital nutrients essential for growth and protection against illness, researchers have warned.

Many of the most popular brands contain less than a fifth of the recommended daily supply of calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron and other crucial minerals.

Experts warn that parents who feed their babies solely on the store-bought jars and formula milk may be storing up problems for the future.

The global baby food market is worth more than £6-billion and four out of five parents buy pureed meals or formula milk.

But experts say baby food manufacturers are not subjected to the tough regulations faced by makers of adult foods.

Researchers from the University of Greenwich analysed the nutritional content of eight popular baby foods given to children aged between six and 12 months.

They found that on average the meat-based foods contained less than a fifth of the recommended daily supply of calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, potassium and sodium.

On average, the meat-based jars contained just three percent of the recommended daily supply of calcium while the vegetable-based types provided just seven percent of zinc and six percent of iron.

The number of jars babies will eat varies hugely and will depend on their appetites and the amounts of other foods and milk they are given.

But researchers estimated that infants given one meat jar and one vegetable jar on top of 600ml of formula milk would not be getting enough calcium, magnesium, copper or selenium.

Dr Nazanin Zand, whose study is published in the journal Food Chemistry, said: “The Government has focused on the importance of breastfeeding and the health of school meals but they have neglected baby foods given in between.”

Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said: “We are failing our children if we allow food so deficient in nutrients to be sold.” - Daily Mail