After conducting a systematic review of scientific evidence, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Washington, says it intends to exercise enforcement discretion for the use of a qualified health claim on food products for infants with severe eczema and/or an egg allergy, characterizing the relationship between consuming foods containing ground peanuts at 4 to 10 months of age and a reduced risk of developing a peanut allergy by 5 years of age.
The claim, which manufacturers can use immediately, states:
"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 [published Feb. 25, 2015, in The New England Journal of Medicine].
"If your infant has severe eczema and/or egg allergy, check with your infant’s health care provider before feeding foods containing ground peanuts."
The new claim does not cover whole peanuts, which are a choking hazard for young children, and should not be consumed, said FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., in a separate Sept. 7 statement. Today, about two percent of American children are allergic to peanuts, he added.
This is the first time the FDA has recognized a qualified health claim to prevent a food allergy. "Our goal is to make sure parents are abreast of the latest science and can make informed decisions about how they choose to approach these challenging issues," Gottlieb said.
The new claim on food labels will recommend that parents check with their infant’s healthcare provider before introducing foods containing ground peanuts. It will also note the claim is based on one study. The FDA will continue to monitor the research related to peanut allergy. If new scientific information further informs what we know about peanut allergies, the FDA will evaluate whether the claim should be updated, the agency said.