Amy Bentley, 2014, Inventing baby food: Taste, health, and the industrialization of the American diet, University of California Press, Oakland, U.S.A., 256 p
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In the emerging field of food studies, Amy Bentley’s latest book traces the history of a category of products which now plays an important role in feeding infants and young children: commercial baby food. Focusing exclusively on solid foods (and therefore not on infant formulas), she defends the idea that in the United States, the huge success that these products have achieved since the 1930s has helped to change the Americans’ taste and has predisposed them from a very young age to enjoying highly processed foods.
The book proceeds in a chronological manner and highlights two main periods. The first runs from the end of the nineteenth century through to the 1950s and shows how commercial baby food became a “fully naturalized product” (p. 9). Sold in tins, the first mass-produced baby foods were initially a luxury product, sold exclusively in chemist’s shops. It was not until the 1920s that certain manufacturers—notably Gerber, who very quickly dominated this new market—attempted to...