The effort to encourage parents to introduce their babies to peanuts early in order to help prevent the risk of peanut allergies received much needed attention on Super Bowl Sunday this year when CBS Sunday Morning aired a story on the issue that has been an ongoing worry for the peanut industry.
The CBS report was fair and thorough and included an interview with Bob Parker, president of the National Peanut Board, who did a great job articulating the peanut allergy issue and the vital importance of early introduction to help reduce the risk. The challenge now is to continue to get the word out to parents, so they will feed their infants peanuts early and often, allowing them to grow up to be lifelong consumers of peanuts, peanut butter and peanut snacks.
CBS Sunday Morning reported that in the year 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics told parents to avoid giving their children peanuts until three years of age to protect them from peanut allergies. This recommendation was pretty much gospel until a groundbreaking study was released in January of 2015 showing that parents of children at risk for peanut allergy could reduce their baby’s chance of developing the allergy by up to 86 percent by feeding them small amounts of peanut foods at four to six months of age.
The study, Learning Early about Peanut Allergies (LEAP), led to the new guidelines by the National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Diseases. The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its guidelines and now recommends early introduction of peanuts and peanut-based food to infants to help prevent peanut allergies.
This is great news for both parents and the peanut industry. The National Peanut Board is working to educate both parents and pediatricians on the new guidelines. A website, PreventPeanutAllergies.org, is a key part of the effort.
Many parents and pediatricians have embraced and follow the new guidelines, but the word still needs to get out to raise awareness on the guidelines. Knowledge of the benefits of early introduction of peanuts is still low, despite the outstanding story on CBS Sunday Morning early this year. More media coverage is needed.
The National Peanut Board is up to the task. They are getting the word out and helping parents overcome their concerns and fears of peanut allergies. The best news will come when we can all be free from peanut allergies.