Parents reluctant to follow latest food allergy guidelines

Guidelines around infant feeding and allergy prevention have changed around the world over the last 18-24 months, reflecting new evidence that suggests early introduction of potentially allergenic foods may have a protective effect, especially if introduced concurrent to breastfeeding. Despite this, a recent survey in the US shows parents there remain hesitant to feed their babies peanuts from an early age.

The survey respondents – 1,000 expectant mothers and 1,000 parents of newborns – were asked about their willingness to try early peanut introduction to prevent peanut allergies, and their familiarity with the latest food allergen guidelines. Results showed that most did not want to add peanut to their children’s diets at an early age—almost 70 percent were not willing to introduce peanut-containing foods before or at 6 months. Almost a third of respondents had little to no awareness of the new guidelines.

Slightly more than half (53 percent) of those surveyed said following the guidelines was of no or limited importance, with 61 percent of respondents reporting no or minimal concern about their child developing a food allergy. However, 54 percent felt timing of introduction has a moderate or strong level of importance for developing food allergy. The guidelines recommend introduction of allergy-containing foods as early as 4-6 months for high-risk infants who have already started solid foods, after determining that it is safe to do so.

Only 31 percent of survey respondents expressed willingness to introduce peanut-containing foods before or around 6 months, with 40% reporting willingness to introduce peanut after 11 months, similar to tree nuts and seafood.

Reference: Greenhawt et al. 2018 Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: DOI: 10.1016/j.anai.2018.03.001