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Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor

Why the FDA Is Talking About This Tool for Peanut Allergy Prevention

Introducing this allergen is getting less and less scary.
PUBLISHED ON 09/11/2017

If allergies run in your family, you’re probably extremely hesitant to introduce peanuts into baby’s diet. You know testing the waters is important, but determining when and how is tough. With this in mind, one company designed a system to help gradually introduce peanuts to infants—and it just became the first-ever food allergy prevention tool to have its health claim recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The system, called Hello, Peanut!, starts with seven packets of a blend of sprouted oat flakes and peanut powder, labeled Day 1 through Day 7. As long as baby is at least 5 months old, doesn’t have a known peanut allergy and has never eaten a peanut product before, parents are encouraged to mix a packet in with stage one foods that baby already likes every day—the amount of peanut in each packet increases with each serving. After baby has finished this regimen without reaction, maintenance packets can be given up to three times per week.

This system is gaining attention for a reason. At the beginning of the year, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), along with several other organizations, revised peanut guidelines for babies. Because studies showed a significantly lower risk of peanut allergies when peanuts were introduced at 3 and 6 months old, these new guidelines encouraged early peanut introduction while breaking down a timeline based on several factors, like whether or not baby has other allergies or eczema.

Basically, the new peanut guidelines say you should introduce peanuts somewhere between 0 and 6 months, but they didn’t do a great job of explaining how. Clearly, babies can’t eat whole peanuts. Should you grind them up? Offer peanut butter instead? Hello, Peanut! is a solution, with a structured regimen to boot.

The next step? Getting the Food and Drug Administration on board to offer parents more peace of mind. Assured Bites, Inc., the company that makes Hello, Peanut!, filed a health claim petition with the FDA, requesting food labels of baby-friendly peanut products make the link between early peanut introduction and reduced allergy risk clear.

The request was approved, making it the first FDA-approved health claim to prevent a food allergy.

A clarifier, though: This is a qualified health claim, meaning while it is supported by credible scientific evidence, there’s not enough to make it an authorized health claim. That means a disclaimer must be added to the food label, indicating the claim is based on one study and that consulting with a doctor is still a good idea.

Here’s what the claim on food labels 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.

“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,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, says in a statement. “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...This is the first time the FDA has recognized a qualified health claim to prevent a food allergy.”

PHOTO: Hello, Peanut!