"Early introduction is the new standard for food allergy prevention."(Medical Daily, May 18, 2016.)
Did you know that food that contains peanut is safe to eat for most infants? So are foods containing milk, egg, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, and soy.
These foods are known as the Big Eight because they cause 90% of all food allergy reactions. Most parents believe that it is not safe to feed them to infants because that's what the experts used to think. Starting around 1990, parents were advised to withhold all of these foods from infants with the hope of decreasing the risk of developing food allergies.
After that, however, the prevalence of food allergy went way up and by 2010 the experts recognized their error and began to advise parents that there was absolutely no reason to withhold these foods from infants who did not have food allergy, eczema, or a family history of peanut allergy. But few heard this message.
Mark Twain said it best--"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."
Unfortunately, too many parents know for sure what just ain't so. And that's really too bad, because feeding infants a diet with more variety is more nutritious, can result in a toddler who is a less picky eater, and may even reduce the risk of later obesity.
More than that, in 2015 a landmark medical study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that feeding peanut puffs to infants at high-risk of developing peanut allergy significantly reduced the chance that they would develop peanut allergy. That's right--eating peanut food during infancy prevents peanut allergy! More recent studies have shown that early feeding of egg and milk may also be protective.
If your infant is high risk--has food allergy, eczema, or a family history of peanut allergy--talk to your Pediatric Provider first. For additional information, see our library of links to informative articles.
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I have been a practicing Pediatrician for 27 years. In the past year and a half, inspired by the extraordinary new medical findings about infant feeding and food allergy, I have gone from sharing these findings with my patients; to partnering with Cheeky Monkey, makers of a peanut butter puff that is safe for infants; to creating "Eat The Eight" sponsored by Cheeky Monkey to educate parents about the safety and benefits of eating The Big Eight. As James Baker, MD and CEO of Food Allergy Research and Education has put it "… we've vilified these foods. There's nothing inherently wrong with their intake, and that's a message we need to get across to parents and physicians so they can start thinking differently. The good news about these studies is that they show there's no reason not to do this. There's no harm that comes from early introduction…The new paradigm will require cultural change." All of us at Eat The Eight are dedicated to helping establish that new paradigm.
(FARE and James Baker, MD have no affiliation with and are not sponsors of EatTheEight. Dr. Baker's comments were published here.)
Ron Sunog, MD