In the past, it was recommended to delay introduction of allergens for up to 3 years. This is no longer the case. Let’s look at the guidelines and recommendations for introducing your bub to allergens…
It is recommended to introduce your bub to solids at around 4-6 months, while you are still breast-feeding or formula feeding. When starting solids, it is safest to start with allergen-free foods. When choosing baby foods, look for products which have been rigorously tested for allergens to ensure that your baby is only exposed to allergens in a safe and controlled environment. I recommend the Little Étoile Organic range as their products are batch tested for the most common allergens and are free from egg, gluten, milk (except in custard), peanut, soy, macadamia, crustacea, almond, hazelnut, sesame, walnut, fish, pistachio, cashew, and lupin.
It is important for baby food products to clearly label potential allergens so that parents can avoid known allergens for their child. If a parent mistakenly gives their baby a product containing an allergen, this can cause a severe and even life-threatening reaction, so it’s important for baby food products to be free from allergens, or at the very least, display the allergen very clearly on the packaging.
Because most pre-packaged baby food contains more than one ingredient, if a parent is relying on pre-made pouches to expose their baby to allergens, it would not be possible to introduce one food at a time as recommended.
So, while parents can use baby food pouches for convenience, allergenic foods should be introduced for the first time using single ingredients. This way the situation can be monitored closely and if a reaction occurs, it is clear which food has caused the reaction.
It is also good to remember that parents should use premade baby food in conjunction with fresh foods. Just like adults, babies will thrive on fresh foods, with the addition of nutritious packaged foods for convenience.
Currently, in Australia and New Zealand, voluntary “Allergen Free” or “Allergen Friendly” claims are not regulated (apart from gluten-free) under the ANZ Food Standards Code. This means the allergen-free information you find on products is listed at a company’s discretion. Comprehensive allergen testing on baby food products is surprisingly uncommon and standard disclaimers and voluntary warnings on food packaging can be misleading and broad. Companies have the choice to:
- Opt to not include allergen-free information on the label;
- Use the claim “may contain traces of” (meaning they don’t do not have a strict allergen management plan in place or perform allergen testing);
- Have a strict allergen management program in place and invest in batch testing to ensure safety and be able to declare that allergens are not present.
Once solids are introduced, allergens can be introduced one at a time, in small amounts, under your close supervision. Once the allergenic food has been introduced and given there is no adverse reaction, the food should be eaten three times per week to help build up their immune tolerance.