December 12, 2008

Peanuts Given The Go-Ahead For Pregnant Women

Food safety experts have said that women who are pregnant or breast feeding do not have to avoid peanuts, even if there is a family history of allergy.

When there are allergies on either the mother's or father's side, women sometimes avoid eating peanuts during pregnancy.

But the British Food Standards Agency says recent studies show no evidence of increased allergy risk in this group.

The Department of Health said it would consider the FSA's recommendations.

Researched was looked at by the FSA's Committee on Toxicity into the exposure to peanuts in the womb or in early life and the development of allergies which had been published since the existing advice was issued in 1998.

"The new evidence that has become available since 1998 reduces the suspicion that maternal consumption of peanut or peanut products during pregnancy might predispose infants to the development of peanut sensitization and allergy," it said.

Also it said that there was no need to continue with the precautionary advice that those with a family history of food allergies, eczema, hay fever or asthma, should avoid peanuts. 

"For high-risk groups there is no need for women who are pregnant or breast feeding or who have children under three to change their diets," the report said.

It also added, "Where there is a family history of allergy, parents may want to discuss their individual case with their GP or health professional if they are concerned."

The FSA will write to ministers to advise official guidance should be changed.

A Department of Health spokesman said, "We are awaiting the FSA Board's formal advice before making a decision about revising current policy."

Allergy UK said it will not change its advice to callers unless the department carried out its consideration of the FSA recommendations.

Rosie Dodds, of the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), said, "Mothers should note this is only a recommendation to the government at this stage.  However, it would be helpful to mothers who have a family history of allergic diseases not to have to restrict their diet unnecessarily."

Nicholas Christakis, a professor of Harvard Medical School, told the BMJ that there was a "gross over-reaction to the magnitude of the threat" posed by food allergies, and particularly nut allergies.

His warning was followed by an incident in the U.S. where a school bus was evacuated and decontaminated after a peanut was found on the floor.

Other research suggest that early exposure could prevent allergies from developing, because the body's immune system is "primed" to accept a substance.


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