Health officials who’ve examined recipes from a “paleo” cookbook for babies, coauthored by My Kitchen Rules judge Pete Evans, have raised serious concerns about the welfare of infants consuming them.
Business Insider showed two recipes – a chicken broth for babies under six months, and a liver pate for infants aged 6-to-12 months – from “Bubba Yum Yum: The Paleo Way” produced by Evans, actress and blogger Charlotte Carr, and naturopath Helen Padarin, to dietitian Jennifer Cohen from the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Sydney.
She warned that parents should be careful feeding them to children, because they are unable to metabolise some elements of the meals, and the effect could be to lower breast milk consumption.
Concerns about the recipes in the $30 cookbook emerged last week, just days before it was due to be released. The federal Department of Health said it was investigating the recipes, especially an infant formula made with liver and beef broth, over concerns about nutrition and safety.
On Monday, publisher Pan Macmillan announced it had parted ways with the authors and would not be releasing the book in print form. The trio are instead planning to release an electronic version.
Co-author Charlotte Carr, who had a baby, Willow, in 2012, claims following the paleo diet “helped heal my little man’s compromised immune system, reverse toxicity and illness, and enabled him to heal and thrive”.
She’s the author of the Bubba Yum Yum website, which features recipes from the book, including a chicken-based “Baby Building Broth”, which she describes as “one of the most important recipes you can learn to make for your child”.
Carr says she began using it with her son when “only a few weeks old” and it “formed the base for his homemade formula”. She says the recipe, which also contains apple cider vinegar, is suitable for babies 0-6 months.
Dietitian Jennifer Cohen says breast milk or an equivalent infant formula should only be given to babies under four months. Here’s her analysis of the recipe:
Expert governing bodies such as ESPGHAN [European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition], WHO [World Health Organistion] and ASCIA [Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy] do not recommend the introduction of complementary foods before the age of 4 months. This is because babies do not have sufficient renal, immune or gastrointestinal function to metabolise nutrients from complementary foods prior to this time.
Breast milk (or an equivalent infant formula) should only be given to babies before this time.
Of concern in introducing this broth before 4 months is it has the potential to displace the baby’s consumption of breast milk therefore reducing the amount of breast milk the baby consumes.
Overall, the recipe is very low in protein; total calories and important nutrients required for growth and development and should not be used as a breastmilk or complete formula substitute.
Once complementary foods are introduced, it is important that a wide variety of foods with differing textures are introduced.
Although there is no issue adding this broth to other complementary foods as suggested on the website, parents will need to be careful that the baby is not consuming this in excessive amounts as it could also displace the baby’s food and breast milk intake.
The other recipe Business Insider showed Cohen was “Willow’s Pate” made from beef or chicken livers with the brother, garlic and coconut oil and recommended for babies 6-12 months.
“Pate is a superfood for babies – it’s so dense in nutrients and is a wonderful first food,” Carr says, feeding it to her son once a week.
Here’s Cohen’s response.
Although cooked chicken livers are safe to give infants over 6 months of age, it is important that infants are not given excessive amounts because of the high level of Vitamin A.
The upper limit of Vitamin A in children is met with approximately 5g of liver per day.
The no-observed-adverse-effect level (NOAEL) will be exceeded with 50g a day of liver.
Case reports of liver toxicity have been reported in the literature in a 7 month old that was given the equivalent of 200g of liver.
We also asked her about the “superfood” phenomenon.
“Use of the word superfood is not regulated and therefore can be used to describe all foods. Liver is a concentrated source of protein, iron, manganese and selenium as well as other nutrients. In the case of some nutrients, like Vitamin A, more is not necessarily beneficial,” Cohen said.
Her advice is to ensure children eat a variety of foods including meat, fish, fruits and vegetable, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and dairy.
“Parents should not rely on one food to provide all of their child’s nutritional requirements. It is not one food in particular that provides a nutritional benefit, more a combination of foods from all five food groups,” she said.