Prof. Arthur Eidelman, Former Head of Pediatrics at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, recently discussed peanut allergies in The Jerusalem Post / JPost.com column, Heal O’ Israel.
Prof. Eidelman explains, “In Western countries, the prevalence of peanut allergy has unfortunately doubled over the past decade, and it is the leading cause of food allergy-related deaths in the U.S…Don’t give them [kids] actual peanuts, as these pose a serious choking hazard, Instead, give food made from peanut butter. As for giving children of this age soft snacks with peanut butter (such as Bamba, corn puffs with peanut butter, which are extremely popular among Israeli children), I strongly endorse this.
It is a mistake that many schools, after-school programs and children’s camps have declared themselves peanut-free. Instead, parents should give such snacks to children at a young age, after they start eating solid foods, as early exposure can get the body used to peanuts before an allergy develops.”
In around the year 2000, British researchers found that the number of peanut allergies in Jewish children living in the UK was about 10 times higher than in Jewish children in Israel. Given the similar ancestry, the British scientists started to explore eating habits. They learned that UK children rarely ate peanut products before their first birthday, while their Israeli counterparts of this age regularly ate Bamba. The researchers then studied 600 babies who were allergic to eggs or suffered from eczema (conditions known to go along with peanut allergies). One batch of children were given Bamba (or smooth peanut butter) regularly, while the other group was not given any peanut products until their fifth birthdays. When the children reached five years of age, only 3% of the children who ate peanut products were allergic to them, compared with 17% of those who didn’t eat peanuts.
Prof. Eidelman shares, “It is recommended that all infants who don’t already test positive for a peanut allergy, eat peanut-enriched foods soon after they’ve tried a few other solid foods.
It’s very important that parents not give babies whole peanuts or chunks of them (or chunky peanut butter) because babies could choke. Smooth peanut butter mixed into a puree is better, as are snacks or foods made with peanut butter.”