The global health pandemic has raised questions among consumers about the safety of introducing allergenic foods, including peanut protein. Canadian families are concerned about the health and wellness of their children, in addition to a conscious effort to not add strain to our hospitals and frontline health care workers.
So, what is the recommendation for introducing allergenic foods during a time of heightened health concerns? Even during the pandemic, the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) continues to recommend introducing allergenic solids early – around six months, but not before four months of age – to infants at high risk of food allergy. High-risk babies have eczema or pre-existing food allergy, or an immediate family member with eczema, food allergy, asthma, or hay fever. The CPS offers this guidance because the benefit (significant reduction in food allergy) is viewed to outweigh the risk (extremely small risk of severe reaction at first ingestion).
In May, Food Allergy Canada (FAC), hosted a webinar – Your questions answered on introducing allergens to babies during COVID-19 – that explored recommendations, advice and suggestions that support the continued early introduction of allergenic foods throughout the pandemic. Canadian paediatric allergists, Dr. Elissa Abrams and Dr. Edmond Chan, answered top questions on the topic, including what to watch for in terms of allergic reactions and how to treat reactions if they happen.
The key takeaways from the webinar included:
- The risk of a severe allergic reaction requiring hospitalization upon first ingestion of an allergen for infants is very unlikely (less than two per cent).
- Early introduction for peanuts has been proven to reduce the risk of peanut allergy in high-risk infants by more than 80 per cent.
- Early introduction should start (and not have an unnecessary stop), so the infant's body can react properly to the allergen. Delaying due to COVID-19 could negatively impact the feeding/introduction schedule.
- Parents should properly understand the signs of a severe and mild reaction to determine whether an infant requires medical attention if a reaction occurs.
As new information unfolds, further information will be shared on the CPS and FAC websites.
Check out this combo of sweet and savoury, peanut-inspired recipes for the summer season!
Consumer research: Did you know?
Peanut butter has been flying off the shelves of Canadian grocery stores over the past three months. According to major Canadian manufacturers, peanut butter is experiencing an unprecedent demand – and it is due to more factors than just stockpiling.
In fact, demand for peanut butter increased by up to 41 per cent, with some companies citing a trend toward plant-based protein and more natural foods. Other factors include unrestrictive diets when it comes to allergenic foods – with the closure of schools, children are at home, so they’re free to consume peanut butter in larger quantities, which contributes to overall product demand.