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Store-Bought Baby Food Could Increase Food Allergy Risk

New research from Australia shows that store-bought baby food may increase your baby’s food allergy risk, because it doesn’t contain enough allergy-causing foods as ingredients. Here’s what parents need to know about this recent study.

New research from Australia indicates that store-bought pureed baby food could be contributing to the rise in food allergies. Today, we’ll share why this baby food may increase your baby’s food allergy risk, especially if your baby’s diet consists mostly of store-bought purees. We’ll also share what you should add to your baby’s diet to reduce their risk of developing common food allergies.

Not Enough Store-Bought Purees Contain Allergy-Causing Foods

As previous studies, such as the landmark Learning Early About Peanut (LEAP) Study, have shown, introducing babies to common allergy-causing foods early and often is key to reducing their risk of developing food allergies. Based on the results of these studies, it’s vital to start introducing these foods to baby as early as 4-6 months of age, and before baby turns one year of age. Consistent introduction is just as important as starting early—feeding baby these foods 2-7 times a week for at least 3-6 months is crucial.

Learn more about the LEAP trial from this 1 minute video from the New England Journal of Medicine:

But how often are these allergy-causing foods included in store-bought baby purees, which many parents rely on for babies’ meals? A study based in Australia, and led by Dr. Merryn Netting (pediatric research dietician from the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute), aimed to find out.

This recent study reviewed 251 types of pureed baby food available in Australia in 2019, made by 14 manufacturers, to see how many types of purees contained common allergy-causing foods. 

All of the purees reviewed in the study were made for babies under one year of age, because of how crucial it is to start early allergen introduction before baby turns one.

Here’s what the researchers found:

  • None of the 251 types of baby food contained peanut.
  • Only 1% of the reviewed  baby foods contained egg.

This is concerning because peanut and egg are two of the top three allergies affecting babies and young children, along with milk. (Together, peanut, egg, and milk represent around 80% of early childhood food allergies, while peanut and egg alone represent around 40% of early childhood food allergies.)

Peanut allergy is more likely to be lifelong, as only 20% of people outgrow a peanut allergy. Peanut allergies also tend to cause severe and life-threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), compared to other types of food allergies.

Meanwhile, egg is one of the hardest allergens to avoid, because so many foods contain hidden egg ingredients. Foods like pasta, pizza dough, baked goods, and ice cream often contain egg, and are off-limits to people with egg allergies. So,egg allergies have a significant impact on quality of life (read more about this in our parents’ guide to egg allergy).

Researchers also found that:

  • None of the 251 baby foods contained tree nuts, sesame, or shellfish, three other common allergens.

The fact that very few baby purees  in Australia contain allergy-causing foods is cause for alarm, because many parents turn to these store-bought purees for convenience’s sake. 

Relying on store-bought purees could lead to a delayed introduction of foods like peanut and eggs. And if babies aren’t introduced to allergy-causing foods early and often enough, their risk of developing a food allergy sharply increases. 

Since delaying the introduction of allergy-causing foods increases food allergy risk, the wide use of purees may have partially contributed to the rise of childhood food allergies in Australia. 

And babies who eat mostly purees may be at a disadvantage, as Dr. Merryn Netting reports.  

Says Dr. Netting, “This low food allergen content may be disadvantageous for infants fed mostly commercial infant foods as they are unlikely to be exposed to sufficient amounts of the major food allergens on a regular basis during infancy [for food allergy prevention].”

So, parents need to intentionally introduce foods like peanut and egg into baby’s diet for food allergy prevention, especially if they feed baby mostly store-bought purees. 

Key Takeaways For Parents 

What should parents take away from the study, regardless of where they live?

  • Most purees don’t contain allergy-causing foods like peanut and egg.
  • But introducing common allergy-causing foods to your baby early and often is key to reducing your baby’s food allergy risk.
  • Even though the study was conducted in Australia, many purees across the world likely don’t contain allergy-causing foods.
  • If you feed baby mostly purees, you’ll need to intentionally add foods like peanut and egg into baby’s diet for food allergy prevention. 
  • Feeding your baby purees alone may increase baby’s food allergy risk if these purees don’t contain common allergy-causing foods.

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All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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