Allergenic foods in infancy
Around 6% of children in the UK will develop food allergies and these can vary in severity from mild to life threatening. Ongoing research is investigating whether early diet (either inclusion or avoidance of specific foods) can have an impact on the later development of food allergy.
Health professionals in the UK recommend avoiding the introduction of allergenic foods such as peanuts, nuts, seeds, egg, cows’ milk, soya, wheat (and other cereals that contain gluten such as rye and barley), fish and shellfish before six months of age (Department of Health, 1994).
This advice was reviewed by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) in 2003 which confirmed this view.
In 2011, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) and Committee on Toxicity (CoT) were asked by the Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency to review the evidence on the timing of introduction of gluten into the infant diet and subsequent risk of developing coeliac disease and type 1 diabetes mellitus. The review concluded that:
- introducing gluten-containing foods before three months (13 weeks) of age might be linked to an increased risk of celiac disease.
- the evidence currently available is not strong enough to make specific recommendations about when gluten should be introduced into infants’ diets beyond three months of age.
- the evidence is not strong enough to support a recommendation to introduce gluten before six months of age.
- there might be an increased chance of infants developing coeliac disease if they are not being breastfed when gluten is introduced into the diet.
SACN began a wider review of existing recommendations on infant and young child feeding in 2012. The review will continue and is expected to report to Government on the appropriate age for the introduction of solids.