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When we were dealing with baby foods, all the books and experts talked about how you could make your own baby food at home easily, except carrots. They all just said "don't even try", some even had a warning that "severe reactions" would occur, and that it was a risk to the baby to feed them home made carrot baby food. Well I've seen the projectile vomit and horrid diapers that result from trying to feed a baby homemade carrot baby food, so there is clearly something to be said for it. But what's so hard about carrots specifically? What are the big companies able to do that we can't do at home? Can anyone explain this at the food science level?

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I dunno, we gave our kids homemade carrot puree without any trouble. –  JSBձոգչ Apr 26 '11 at 18:50
    
@Cabbey nice question but I think this would be better suited for cooking.stackexchange –  David Apr 27 '11 at 12:32
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I'm reluctant to migrate this because I suspect it's already answered by this question on Cooking. @cabbey, if that question doesn't satisfy your needs, could you perhaps revise this to clarify? –  Shog9 Apr 27 '11 at 19:18
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@Shog9, in order to ask that question, you kinda have to already know the answer to this one (supposing the one Koert proposed is the right one). –  cabbey Apr 27 '11 at 21:54
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@cabbey: good point - and I think that's a good argument for keeping the question here, although I'm adding the SA link to Koert's answer. –  Shog9 Apr 28 '11 at 19:36
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1 Answer

According to http://www.wholesomebabyfood.com/nitratearticle.htm, the problem is with nitrate levels in carrots. If that's true, the same problem will occur with fresh spinach.

As to what the food industry does differently: IIRC, nitrate problems tend to get worse when cooked meals spend time at room temperature. Bacteria from the air will metabolize the nitrate into nitrite, which is poisonous at higher concentrations. This only occurs when (naturally occuring) bacteria are present, at 20-40 degrees celsius. In te food industry, the cooking process kills the bacteria, and the food is packaged airtight while the product is still hot. You can't do that at home.

disclaimer: I dropped out from my chemistry bachelor after one year. The above is incomplete at best.

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Disclaimer: I am not a food scientist or health expert. but from first principles. Nitrate is water soluble, so presumably it could be leached out (along with other nutrients) and no3 a -> no2 can be inhibited with vinegar. –  David Apr 27 '11 at 12:28
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what prevents you from packaging while the food is "still hot" at home? Canners do it all the time. –  warren Apr 29 '11 at 17:36
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@warren packaging while still hot is definitely doable. Doing that in a sterile atmosphere is virtually impossible at home. But come to think of it, perhaps that's just regulatory overkill, and not strictly required to do at home. –  Koert Apr 30 '11 at 19:03
    
@Shog9: Please don't change the meaning of my answer by adding new information to it. It's not trivial for the reader to see what's mine and what's not. (for those not involved, Shog9 added the following link to the answer: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/11994/…) –  Koert Apr 30 '11 at 19:06
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