FDA said Thursday that science supports the idea that giving a small amount of ground-up peanut to babies and young kids can actually prevent allergies. Therefore, a company that wants to label its food products accordingly may do so.
“This is the first time the FDA has recognized a qualified health claim to prevent a food allergy,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb.
New guidelines issued in January indicate that even babies with the highest risk of having a potential peanut allergy should be given small doses of the nut because it might prevent the allergy from manifesting.
The recommendations from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and other groups are based on findings that giving peanut to kids at a very young age can train their immune systems so they don’t overreact when exposed and cause an adverse reaction.
About 5% of U.S. children have food allergies, according to NIAID. Peanut allergies are the most common, affecting approximately 2% of children. Gottlieb said it can be confusing for parents who worry about food allergies in their kids.
“Perhaps one of the most challenging decisions for parents of my generation is when and how to introduce foods that pose a potential for a significant allergic reaction,” Gottlieb said. “Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies. It’s also one of the most dangerous. Peanut allergy is the leading cause of death related to food-induced anaphylaxis in the United States.”
FDA said the new claim will read:
“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 healthcare provider before feeding foods containing ground peanuts.”