Want to hear something crazy? The prevalence of peanut allergies among U.S. kids doubled from 1997 to 2008—and today, around 2 percent of children are allergic to peanuts.
One reason for the surge: The longstanding advice—to withhold peanuts from children at high risk for allergies until they were 3 years old—was majorly flawed. Thankfully, mounting research has revealed that early introduction of peanuts is actually associated with lower risk of peanut allergies, and earlier this year, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases recommended giving babies pureed food containing peanut powder before they turn 6 months, and maybe even earlier if your doctor gives you the okay.
And this month, even more exciting peanut allergy news was announced: Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced that the FDA would allow companies that sell baby food (or foods suitable for infants) containing ground peanuts to make the qualified health claim that their foods may help prevent peanut allergies.
The health claim, which approved manufacturers will be able to use on their products, reads 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.”
The first (and so far only) product to be approved to carry this claim is Hello, Peanut—a blend of USDA-certified organic ground peanut powder and sprouted oats that can be mixed into hot or cold baby food starting at five months. (Of course, you should still always consult with your doctor before feeding your child peanut butter or peanut-containing products for the fist time.)
How is it used? According to a New York Times article, parents would buy a Hello, Peanut introduction kit containing seven pre-portioned packets of the powder, which incrementally increase in quantity from 200 mg (about 1 peanut’s worth) of peanut powder to 2 g (3 to 7 peanuts) of peanut powder. Parents would add one packet per day to their infant’s food for a week. The introduction kit can then be followed by a maintenance kit, which is used daily until a child is old enough to eat peanut butter.
The product was developed by Dr. David Erstein, an allergist, who told the New York Times that he hoped the limited health claim on the package would raise awareness about early introduction and increase parents’ comfort level with implementing the new recommendations.
If you’re wondering if Hello, Peanut is appropriate for your infant or young child, consult with your doctor. Depending on your child’s risk for allergies, they may need to undergo skin or blood testing before using the product. (Check out these 4 weird things that may trigger food allergies and sensitivities in adults.)
One thing to make crystal clear, however: This product does not cure or treat existing allergies. In fact, feeding Hello, Peanut or any peanut-containing food to a child with an existing peanut allergy could be very dangerous.
This article first appeared on Rodale's Organic Life.