You may have heard that giving your child small amounts of certain foods when they’re young can help prevent allergies to those same foods later in life. The idea may seem worrisome if you think your child may have a potentially serious allergy, but guidelines released in January from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) supports the practice of introducing foods like peanuts to babies to prevent allergies.
Now, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking this a step further and allowing companies that sell baby food and food for young children to use labels that claim the food can prevent food allergies. In a statement last week, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced that the agency would start allowing updated labels on some peanut-containing foods.
This decision came as a result of the new guidelines from the NIAID, as well as a recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health. That study found that introducing foods containing smooth peanut butter to babies as young as 4 months of age who are at high risk of developing a peanut allergy—due to severe eczema or egg allergy or both—reduces their risk of developing the allergy later in childhood by about 80 percent.
“Along with the information that you currently see on food labels, which disclose when a food contains peanuts or peanut residue, the new advice about the early introduction to peanuts and reduced risk of developing peanut allergy will soon be found on the labels of some foods containing ground peanuts that are suitable for infant consumption,” Gottlieb said in a statement.
Currently, foods must carry a label if they contain any ingredients that most commonly cause allergies. But with this approval, the new labels will specify that these products may reduce the risk of peanut allergies for children under 5 years of age. According to the statement, this is the first time the FDA has recognized a qualified health claim to prevent a food allergy.
Parents are still advised to speak with their child’s doctor before giving young kids peanut butter. But with these new guidelines, parents might now be able to help protect their children from one of the most common food allergies.