New FDA Health Claim Paves the Way for Infant Foods to Prevent Peanut Allergy

Researchers have acknowledged since 2015 that early introduction of peanut foods reduces the risk of developing peanut allergies, based on the results of the Learning Early About Peanut allergies (LEAP) study. The LEAP study showed that among children at high risk for developing peanut allergies, based on either having moderate to severe eczema or egg allergy or both, eating peanut foods starting as early as 4 months reduced the risk for developing peanut allergy by up to 86% by 5 years of age. In fact, in January the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) released guidelines with detailed instructions on when and how to introduce peanut foods to prevent peanut allergies.

 

In the LEAP study, researchers used a common weaning food called Bamba. A corn and peanut puff not unlike a Cheeto in its form, Bamba is ubiquitous in Europe, but can be hard to find in the U.S. In fact, there aren’t many food products specifically developed for babies that contain peanuts and food manufacturers and entrepreneurs have taken notice. Several companies are developing infant-friendly foods to meet the growing interest and demand for easy, safe infant foods to make early introduction simple.

 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is charged with overseeing health claims on foods and this week paved the way for manufacturers to begin to market foods for this specific need. In a September 7 Constituent Update, FDA granted a qualified health claim for ground whole peanuts – which could include powdered peanut butter, peanut flour or peanut paste/peanut butter – linking early peanut introduction and a reduction in the risk for developing peanut allergy.  The qualified health claim means that companies who develop products using ground peanuts (as peanut flour or powdered peanut butter) meant to meet the need for early introduction to high-risk infants (as previously described) can use this qualified health claim for promotion, as long as the product(s) meet FDA’s Letter of Enforcement Discretion. This includes recommending that consumers consult a healthcare provider before introducing ground peanuts if the child has severe eczema and/or egg allergy. FDA also emphasized that the recommendations are based on one study – the LEAP study.

 

The approved qualified health claim is:

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.

 

Introducing peanut foods is simple, but can be confusing and cause anxiety for some parents. Having convenient, infant-safe foods available is a positive step toward making early introduction of peanut foods easier for parents and infants. Yet, introducing peanut foods requires no special foods. In fact, you may already have a perfect product in your pantry. Peanut butter is found in more than 90% of households. Powdered peanut butter (aka peanut flour or ground peanuts) is also available in most supermarkets, warehouse clubs, and via online retailers. Stirring two teaspoons of peanut butter or powdered peanut butter into two tablespoons of applesauce, infant cereal, or thinning with the same amount of breastmilk or formula creates a safe and tasty slurry to feed babies. Whole peanuts or unthinned peanut butter are not safe, since they may cause choking in infants.

 

For more information on introducing peanut foods early, visit this page.