Did you know that in the ten year period between 2005 and 2015, the number of reported cases of food allergies had doubled and the number of hospitalisations caused by severe allergic reactions had increased by 700%?!
Scientists are working hard at finding cures for food allergies to halt this upward trend and as you may have seen last month, it was widely reported in the news that a study had found that exposing babies to allergenic foods reduces the risk of them developing allergies later in life.
The study was funded by the UK Food Standards Agency and UK Medical Research Council and was undertaken by doctors and professors in paediatric allergies. The report published on the Food Standards Agency website is very clear but some news outlets summarised only the headlines and none of the pitfalls.
What most news outlets failed to mention is that the babies involved in the study were given allergenic foods from the age of 3 months. This goes against NHS and World Health Organization guidance of waiting until babies are 6 months old before introducing solid food into their diet, as their digestive system may not be developed enough before this age to cope with food (other than breast or formula milk).
The study also undertook a skin prick test on each of the children prior to the study to ensure they did not already suffer from the food allergy. Without this skin prick test I would be wary of introducing allergenic foods to a 3 month old who could have a serious, if not potentially fatal reaction.
It is certainly an avenue for the scientific community to continue exploring but I would not be introducing peanut butter and boiled eggs into the diet of a 3 month old without further guidance and studies.
So it would be wise to err on the side of caution before readily supplying guests at your hotel, leisure complex or restaurant with allergenic foods for their babies. Despite the headline grabbing conclusions that may be drawn from the study, there is clearly far more to understand and develop before introducing such foods into a baby’s diet.