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Pregnant women 'can eat peanuts'

11 December 08 13:24 GMT

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding do not have to avoid peanuts, even if there is a family history of allergy, food safety experts have said.

Current advice says where there are allergies on either the mother's or father's side, women may wish to avoid peanuts in pregnancy.

But the 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.


The FSA's Committee on Toxicity looked at research into 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.

It said: "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 sensitisation and allergy."

And it said 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.

Individual advice

"For high-risk groups there is no need for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding or who have children under three to change their diets.

"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 now write to ministers to advise official guidance should change.

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 would not change its advice to callers until the department had 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."

School bus

The revised advice follows a warning from a Harvard Medical School expert over nut allergy "hysteria".

Professor Nicholas Christakis said told the BMJ there was "a gross over-reaction to the magnitude of the threat" posed by food allergies, and particularly nut allergies.

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

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

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