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“PATATE”, a project to improve baby foods

A promising and innovative project funded by the Qualiment® Carnot Institute:“Oral physiology and food texture acceptability in infants: PATATE”

diversification alimentaire des tous petits
Updated on 11/29/2016
Published on 09/28/2016

The PATATE project (Oral physiology and food texture acceptability in infants, or Physiologie orale et Acceptabilité de la Texture de l’Aliment chez le Jeune Enfant) was selected in 2015 following the call for in-house projects* by Qualiment® because of its originality, cross-disciplinary nature and the potential for the application of its findings by industry.
In PATATE, research scientists expert in oral physiology, children's eating behaviour and food formulation are combining their expertise to address issues around the introduction of complementary feeding. 

Which scientific approach has been adopted?

The project is composed of two studies, each focusing on a specific stage of complementary feeding. To meet the specific needs of these studies, vegetable-based model foods have been developed by INRA's Joint Research Unit for Food Process Engineering (UMR GENIAL) using their pilot facilities. The design of these products was driven by composition and their textural sensory properties. An initial range of purées with different fat contents but of similar consistency was developed using controlled mechanical and thermal processes. A second range of products was designed by varying their textural properties (ranging from a purée to pieces of different sizes and consistencies) using the same raw materials.

The first study, carried out at the start of complementary feeding, was designed to understand the extent to which milk feeding practices (breast milk vs. formula) influence an infant's acceptability of the fat contained in purées. Saliva samples were collected from the infants in order to quantify compounds that are known to play a role in fat acceptability and lipid digestion.

The second study, targeting infants aged from 8 to 15 months, is focusing on the acceptability of the first food pieces. The objective is to understand how the texture of the foods proposed to infants influences the development of their chewing skills and their acceptance of products with different textures. These products are offered alongside advice designed to increase the awareness of mothers to the introduction of textures.

The two studies are being carried out in Dijon, at the Centre for Taste and Feeding Behaviour (UMR-CSGA). The infants and their parent(s) take part in meals organised in the CSGA facilities adapted for the study of infants. The foods are offered to the infants and their acceptability is studied by specialists in eating behaviour. In parallel, scientists working in oral physiology evaluate the infants' oral abilities (mastication and salivation). Information on the infants and their environment are collected during the same session through the completion of questionnaires by the parents.

Where are these studies now?

The overall project started in 2015, and data from the first study are currently being processed. The second study has just started. At the end of the project in 2018, nearly 80 mothers and infants will have participated in the studies.

Outputs of the project

Baby food companies have displayed considerable interest in this project, which should lead to the proposal of formulation strategies to develop foods specifically adapted for babies. It should also help to optimise communication with parents and help them to choose the correct foods for their children. In the longer term, the innovative methods developed in order to characterise the oral physiology and eating behaviour of infants could be exploited in the context of future collaborations with industry.

Scientific contact(s):

  • Carole Tournier INRA-CNRS-Université de Bourgogne Franche-Comté Centre for Taste and Feeding Behaviour (UMR CSGA 1324) 17 rue Sully BP 86510 - 21065 Dijon Cedex
Exploitation Manager, Qualiment® Carnot Institute:
Pauline Souvigner
Associated Division(s):
Science for Food and Bioproduct Engineering, Nutrition, Chemical Food Safety and Consumer Behaviour
Associated Centre(s):

For more information on the <PATATE> project

The studies are based on four observations:

  1. The oral skills necessary for food intake (mastication, salivation) undergo marked changes during the first two years of life, depending on  the type of foods consumed.  
  2. The first complementary foods are mainly fruits and vegetables, and their acceptability depends, among other factors, on their texture.  
  3. The experiences of infants during complementary feeding may impact the development of their oral physiology and their acceptance of solid foods.
  4. The choice of foods proposed to infants is made by parents (mainly mothers).  

List of partners:

  • INRA-CNRS-Université de Bourgogne Franche-Comté Centre for Taste and Feeding Behaviour, Dijon (UMR CSGA 1324)
  • INRA-AgroParisTech Joint Research Unit for Food Process Engineering (UMR GENIAL 1145), 1 Avenue des Olympiades, 91744 MASSY Cedex.

Duration and dates of the project: 4 years; 2015-2018
Funding and accreditation: Qualiment® Carnot Institute.

*Support and funding

All Carnot Institutes receive funds from the French Government (French National Research Agency), that are calculated as a function of the number of contracts signed between entities within the scope of the Institute and its industrial partners. This support mainly enables the funding of projects and actions designed to ensure in-house scientific and technological activities by the Carnot Institute. In many cases, these actions are organised around calls for projects initiated by the Institute with the aim of preserving and/or developing its scientific advances on a given theme or subject relative to the industrial state of the art.