Peanut allergies are not new. However, both consumers and healthcare providers are more likely to consider testing for peanut allergies now than ten to twenty years ago, based on concerns they may have. Diagnosing food allergies requires a combination of considering history, blood or skin tests, and potentially an oral challenge. Not only is diagnosis more common, but also awareness of the allergy and the dangers of it are much more well-known.
Clearly, peanut allergies are a difficult topic for our business and an unfortunate reality for all involved. That is why when the Food and Drug Administration released a statement regarding new peanut allergy related qualified health claim we listened.
The FDA has approved a new qualified health claim for products meant to help introduce peanut foods to infants as follows:
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.
According to the release, peanut allergies more than doubled between 1997 and 2008. Not only has it doubled, but also up to two percent of American children are allergic to the legume. While most doctors have historically advised parents to wait until age three to introduce the peanut to children who are at high risk for the allergy, that guideline has now been altered.
Based on the results of a ground-breaking clinical trial, the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease (along with the American Academy of Pediatrics and experts in allergies) now advises parents to introduce peanut foods at a much earlier age. The press release states that, “introducing foods containing smooth peanut butter to babies as early 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 peanut allergy later in childhood by about 80 percent.”
This finding is significant since the majority of peanut allergy for individuals developed during childhood and they never grew out of it. Implementing the new guidelines could quite possibly result in fewer children developing peanut allergy.
It is important to note that whole peanuts should not be given to such young children; however, ground peanuts (e.g. peanut flour or powdered peanut butter) or peanut butter thinned with a little water allow for safer exposure. Despite the finding, the FDA was sure to stress contacting your infant’s healthcare professional prior to exposing your child to the food.
As research continues to develop regarding peanuts and peanut allergies, it is important to remember that some peanut allergic children do react severally and risk death when they ingest peanuts. Therefore, Hope and Harmony Farms thought it would be beneficial to give a few peanut etiquette rules to following during the school year:
1) Be aware if your child has a classmate with a peanut allergy. If your child loves to snack on peanuts or eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, they must understand that they cannot share their food.
2) When you send peanut butter cookies to school, be sure the peanut allergic classmate also has a safe snack or treat. Remember, it must also be stored separately.
3) Remind your child to wash their hands before and after lunch. Simply washing hands reduces the risk of cross contact – and it’s just good hygiene.
It is important for Hope and Harmony Farms to provide quality gourmet products and quality customer service. We also believe the same customer service should be provided to those that will never be our direct clients as a result of their allergy.
For the 99% of Americans without peanut allergy, our products are a completely safe way to eat more plant based protein and boost your vitamin and mineral intake. We are hopeful that ongoing research in this area will reduce the numbers of peanut allergic children and adults in the future.