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Tuesday, July 27, 1999 Published at 12:22 GMT 13:22 UK


Warning after salt kills baby

The couple found baby food too expensive

Parents of a three-month-old baby who suffered fatal brain damage from a salt overdose have warned others not to feed their infants adult food.

Fergus Walsh reports babies cannot digest more than half a gram of salt a day
Leroy Elders was given liquidised adult food instead of specially-prepared baby meals because it was cheaper and his parents thought the ingredients were the same.

Click here for expert advice on baby feeding.

But salt in the food, which included breakfast cereal and mashed potatoes and gravy, overwhelmed the child's delicate digestive system and caused massive brain damage.

The BBC's Rachel Ellison: "Leroy had nine grammes of salt in his body"
Doctors spent five days trying to save Leroy after he began suffering fits, but he died in his mother's arms when the decision was made to switch off his life support machine.

Parents compared ingredients

Leroy's parents fed him a porridge cereal, and say many of their friends feed their baby in a similar fashion.

His mother, Joanne Short, 20, told the BBC: "We are really surprised that a food that is supposed to be so good could harm a baby in this way.

"It's still like we are in a dream."

Mary Daly, from the Health Visitors' Association: "Parents should avoid giving their babies highly processed adult foods"
The baby's father, David Elders, an 18-year-old trainee chef, said: "We weren't careless with our son's life. We loved him too much for that."

An inquest on Monday was told that Leroy's body contained nine grammes of salt, the average daily intake for an adult but enough to kill a baby, whose immature kidneys can only process a tiny fraction of that amount.

Accidental death verdict

His parents, from Doncaster, south Yorkshire, said they compared the ingredients listed on a packet of Ready Brek breakfast cereal with those of baby food and they appeared the same.

Coroner Stanley Hooper, recording a verdict of accidental death, said: "I am satisfied death came about because the baby was fed adult food, in particular Ready Brek, for reasons of cheapness.

"Like so many prepared foods these days, adult food contains salt for reasons of flavour and cheapness. In everyday things there is quite a lot of salt.

"It may be that various lessons can be learned from this tragic case."

The British Nutrition Foundation said it was extremely rare for a baby to die from salt overdose.

Government-recommended salt levels for infants are lower than for adults because of concerns over organ damage.

But experts say severely restricting salt, which occurs naturally in many foods, can also cause problems.

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27 Jul 99 | Health
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