The trinidad Guardian / In a move worthy of the Monty Python comedy group at their sublime best, the T&T Defence Force (TTDF) has come up with a list of things that they say the people of Dominica desperately need, that beggars the imagination. After conducting a critical needs assessment on the ground, the TTDF published a list in Sunday’s Guardian which included chain saws; generators; roofing supplies; gasoline and diesel fuel; tarpaulins; water; pre-packaged food; medical supplies; baby cereal; disposable diapers; stoves … hold on… back up… “baby cereal?”, “disposable diapers?” Is this a sick joke? Somebody trying to be funny? Including “baby cereal” and disposable diapers as “critical needs?” Equivalent to chain saws, generators, medicine and water?

Let’s dispose of the plastic diapers, even though the question arises, where are you going to put them after use when your entire water and sewage system is not working, but OK they want disposable diapers because they accustomed to that and apart from hygiene and the possibility of transmitting gastro, give them that. But baby cereal? How in heaven’s name does baby cereal get on this list? Is someone paying for baby cereal to be placed on this list of critical needs?

Let’s get this straight. Nobody needs “baby cereal.” There’s no such thing as “baby cereal” just as there is no such thing as “baby food.” What exists are products invented by companies that deal in food designed to make you think babies need “baby food.” Infants can eat almost any food that adults eat without any problem.

Up to a few years ago, “baby cereal” was being touted as the first food for babies. That was simply because of the iron it contains, iron which we now know is poorly absorbed and not needed in well fed babies, especially those breastfed. “Baby cereals” were actually recommended as first foods, based solely on American tradition and culture than on any scientific evidence.

Sixteen years ago I listened with anguish as two bubble-heads on CNN wrongly criticised Madonna for refusing to feed her son “baby rice cereal” as a first food.

This refusal has now gone main-stream, even in the USA and in Great Britain. It does not matter what the first solid foods are.

There is no medical evidence that introducing solid foods in any particular order has any advantage. You do not have to feed babies commercial “baby cereal.” It is not necessary, in well times, far less times of disaster.

Apart from not being necessary, they are highly processed with all the natural ingredients washed out. Artificial vitamins and minerals have to be added and again, these are poorly absorbed. Second they are 90 per cent starch, either wheat or corn or oats i.e. refined sugar. Processed starch drives up the blood sugar quickly and drops it quickly, causing hunger, irritability and increased intake. In addition, many have added sugars usually disguised with names like “banana puree concentrate” to fool you into thinking they contain real banana.

Fourth, they have no fibre and are a major source of constipation in six-month-olds. Fifth, babies fed these processed foods seem to prefer processed foods later on in life so there is link between commercial “rice cereals” and obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Sixth, they are expensive and use up foreign exchange. Seventh they are a major cause of gas, colic, abdominal pain, irregular bowel movements and allergies.

Finally, they continue that insidious and detrimental process of insisting on believing that “foreign” is better than local.

This may be true for many things but not for food. Our traditional West Indian foods like “blue food,” rice and peas and callallo and fish are superior “baby foods.”

All over the world people are now attempting to buy local, eat better and cut down on their carbon footprint and so on. Let us keep our local food customs. Send a message. Real food for babies and their mothers. Not fake food.


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