The labels on some food products in the United States may soon alert parents to updated medical guidelines that suggest introducing peanut to infants as young as 4 to 6 months may play a role in preventing a child from developing a peanut allergy.
After conducting a review of scientific research, the FDA announced on Sept. 7, 2017 that it will allow the following health claim to be made on peanut-containing foods:
“For most infants with severe eczema and/or egg allergy who are already eating solid foods, introducing foods containing ground peanuts between 4 and 10 months of age and continuing consumption may reduce the risk of developing peanut allergy by 5 years of age. FDA has determined, however, that the evidence supporting this claim is limited to one study. If your infant has severe eczema and/or egg allergy, check with your infant’s health-care provider before feeding foods containing ground peanuts.”
The study the FDA references is the famous LEAP study from Britain, which found that introducing peanut to babies who were at a high risk for food allergy (those with severe eczema and/or egg allergy) reduced the development of peanut allergy significantly. The reduction was 70 to 80 percent.
“This is the first time the FDA has recognized a qualified health claim to prevent a food allergy,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the FDA commissioner, said in a statement. “Our goal is to make sure parents are abreast of the latest science and can make informed decisions about how they choose to approach these challenging issues.”
The LEAP study was also the impetus early this year for revised medical guidelines, which suggest introducing to peanuts at 4 to 6 months of age, depending on the child’s level of allergy risk. In those with higher risk, the guidelines suggest before 6 months and that the child’s physician “strongly consider” a skin-prick test to see whether an allergy might already be established. (If a test is positive, peanut would be avoided as it is for anyone with an allergy.)
The FDA’s health claim approval follows a request from an allergist-developed product, called Hello, Peanut, to be able to make such a claim. This new product is designed for introducing peanut to babies, and comes in packets of measured peanut powder and oat flakes that is mixed into other baby food.
The new allergy prevention guidelines also contain easy recipes and precise measuring for parents who prefer to make their own baby food containing peanut. Find the recipes and instructions here.
Gottlieb’s statement reminds parent that whole peanuts are a choking hazard, and should never be fed to young children.
– New Guidelines on Feeding Peanut to Babies, and Ways to Introduce
– The Winter 2017-18 edition of Allergic Living magazine will have a report on the phenomenon of new food allergy introduction kits.