The data on peanut allergies is often confusing. According to figures released in 2013 by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), only 0.06 percent of people in the United States have peanut allergies. However, a 2008 study by Jaffe Food Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine claimed three times more Americans—1.4 percent—were allergic to peanuts. Whatever the numbers, peanut allergy is one of the most dangerous, and one of the most common causes, of food-related deaths.
Parents trying to understand the cause and effect of childhood food allergies have been given conflicting advice over the years. In 2000 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued guidelines that said children should not be fed peanuts until they are 3 years old. This was based on the theory that delaying the introduction of peanuts would prevent the development of allergies. In 2008, the AAP reversed itself, saying there was little evidence to back its previous advice. However, the AAP did not issue new guidelines.
Enter the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI). In 2013 the organization said highly allergenic foods such as peanut butter, fish, and eggs can be introduced to babies between 4 and 6 months. This early introduction might even prevent a child from developing food allergies. This prompted the AAP to issue firm guidelines in February 2013 that back the AAAAI’s findings. According to the AAP, it was wrong in 2000: “Early introduction of allergenic foods may prevent food allergy in infants/children. Therefore, highly allergenic foods can be introduced as complementary foods starting at 4 to 6 months.”i The AAP recommends introducing the foods at home, rather than a child care facility or restaurant. And peanuts should be added to the diet after other foods such as rice cereal, fruits, and vegetables have been eaten.
i David M. Fleischer, “Early Introduction of Allergenic Foods May Prevent Food Allergy in Children,” AAP News, February 2013,