Association Between Earlier Introduction of Peanut and Prevalence of Peanut Allergy in Infants in Australia

JAMA. 2022 Jul 5;328(1):48-56. doi: 10.1001/jama.2022.9224.


Importance: Randomized clinical trials showed that earlier peanut introduction can prevent peanut allergy in select high-risk populations. This led to changes in infant feeding guidelines in 2016 to recommend early peanut introduction for all infants to reduce the risk of peanut allergy.

Objective: To measure the change in population prevalence of peanut allergy in infants after the introduction of these new guidelines and evaluate the association between early peanut introduction and peanut allergy.

Design: Two population-based cross-sectional samples of infants aged 12 months were recruited 10 years apart using the same sampling frame and methods to allow comparison of changes over time. Infants were recruited from immunization centers around Melbourne, Australia. Infants attending their 12-month immunization visit were eligible to participate (eligible age range, 11-15 months), regardless of history of peanut exposure or allergy history.

Exposures: Questionnaires collected data on demographics, food allergy risk factors, peanut introduction, and reactions.

Main outcome and measures: All infants underwent skin prick tests to peanut and those with positive results underwent oral food challenges. Prevalence estimates were standardized to account for changes in population demographics over time.

Results: This study included 7209 infants (1933 in 2018-2019 and 5276 in 2007-2011). Of the participants in the older vs more recent cohort, 51.8% vs 50.8% were male; median (IQR) ages were 12.5 (12.2-13.0) months vs 12.4 (12.2-12.9) months. There was an increase in infants of East Asian ancestry over time (16.5% in 2018-2019 vs 10.5% in 2007-2011), which is a food allergy risk factor. After standardizing for infant ancestry and other demographics changes, peanut allergy prevalence was 2.6% (95% CI, 1.8%-3.4%) in 2018-2019, compared with 3.1% in 2007-2011 (difference, -0.5% [95% CI, -1.4% to 0.4%]; P = .26). Earlier age of peanut introduction was significantly associated with a lower risk of peanut allergy among infants of Australian ancestry in 2018-2019 (age 12 months compared with age 6 months or younger: adjusted odds ratio, 0.08 [05% CI, 0.02-0.36]; age 12 months compared with 7 to less than 10 months: adjusted odds ratio, 0.09 [95% CI, 0.02-0.53]), but not significant among infants of East Asian ancestry (P for interaction = .002).

Conclusions and relevance: In cross-sectional analyses, introduction of a guideline recommending early peanut introduction in Australia was not associated with a statistically significant lower or higher prevalence of peanut allergy across the population.

MeSH terms

  • Arachis* / adverse effects
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Peanut Hypersensitivity* / epidemiology
  • Peanut Hypersensitivity* / etiology
  • Peanut Hypersensitivity* / prevention & control
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors