Pregnant women advised to eat peanuts to protect baby against developing allergies
Mums to be are being told to stock up on peanuts to prevent their baby from developing a potentially fatal allergy against them.
After reviewing a number of studies, a House of Lords committee found that current Government advice to avoid eating peanuts while pregnant, or giving children peanuts until they are three years old, could actually be fuelling Britain’s allergy epidemic instead of erasing it.
The studies show that allergy rates are low or non-existent in places where children are weaned on peanuts, like Africa and Asia, however, Britain has seen an increase in allergies to one in 70 schoolchildren since 1999, when it became the only country in Europe to recommend that pregnant women avoid eating peanut to reduce the likelihood of peanut allergy development.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, crossbench peer Lord May of Oxford said: ‘It is quite striking that the increase in peanut allergies is rather in step with the increasing Government advice not to expose tiny children to them.
‘In Israel, where peanuts are quite commonly found in baby food, there has been no increase in peanut allergies.’
And Sue Hattersley, of the Food Standards Agency, agreed, saying: ‘The evidence we are getting from the Jewish children in Israel – where they use peanut snacks as weaning food – is that, if you have a high-level oral exposure, that actually leads to the development of tolerance whereas if you have just a very low level exposure that may be leading to sensitisation
But the Government have said they will move to refresh guidelines if the advice is, indeed, counterproductive.
Health minister Ivan Lewis told the committee: ‘If the advice is entirely wrong and counterproductive and actually damaging people, then we really need to move rather quickly rather than having ongoing incessant reviews.’