That’s Nuts!

A food allergy is defined by a reaction of the immune system to produce antibodies (immunoglobulin E or IgE) in response to a food protein (allergen) present in foods that are usually harmless. 90% of food allergies are categorized by the 9 major allergens: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children have increased by approximately 50% from 1997-2011. Some researches have hypothesized that the rise in childhood allergies are related to food processing methods, reduced exposure to infections and delayed introduction to allergenic foods. In a recent study entitled “Learning Early about Peanut Allergy” published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researches noted that Jewish children living in the United Kingdom were 10 times as likely to develop peanut allergies than their counterparts living in Israel.  The difference? Jewish children living in Israel had an earlier introduction to peanuts in their diets. These findings are the reasoning behind the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) retraction of previous recommendations to delay the introduction of peanuts. In 2017 an addendum to the previous guidelines recommend that high risk infants – those with severe eczema and/or egg allergies – be introduced to peanuts as early as 4-6 months, following successful feeding of other solid foods to ensure development readiness. Additionally the AAP recommends that these high-risk infants get allergy tested prior to introduction of peanuts to determine whether home or physician supervision is safest. Non-high-risk infants are recommended to introduce peanuts at home around 6 months of age, in accordance to family preferences and after successful ingestion of other solid foods.