The recommendations are a U-turn from 2000, when the American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidelines that children should put off having milk until age 1, eggs until 2 and peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts and fish until 3. In 2008, the AAP revised its guidelines, citing little evidence that such delays prevent the development of food allergies, but it didn't say when and how to introduce such foods.
Food allergies affect an estimated 5% of children under the age of 5 in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health. The prevalence of a food allergy for children under 18 increased by 18% from 1997 to 2007.
"There's been more studies that find that if you introduce them early it may actually prevent food allergy," said David Fleischer, co-author of the article and a pediatric allergist at National Jewish Health in Denver. "We need to get the message out now to pediatricians, primary-care physicians and specialists that these allergenic foods can be introduced early."
Dr. Fleischer said more study results are needed to conclusively determine whether early introduction will in fact lead to lower food-allergy rates and whether they should be recommended as a practice.
Image: Peanuts, via Shutterstock