Food Allergy Families: There’s Gold in Them Thar Babies

LEAP changed everything and started a gold rush.

The Learning Early About Peanut allergy study determined that introducing peanuts to high-risk babies 4-11 months of age could dramatically reduce their incidence of developing peanut allergy later in life. Now, similar studies are underway to determine whether allergies to other foods like eggs and milk can be avoided the same way.

Welcome to the birth of a billion dollar industry as companies rush to get in on the ground floor.

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Last week, we reported on Aralyte™, a food product masquerading as a pharmaceutical that offers you a way to spend $1200 to give your baby the same effective ingredient found in a $2 bag of Bamba snack, the actual food product used in the study. The company’s site is all about safety but there is no indication their preparation is any safer than the Skippy tucked away in your neighbor’s cupboard.

This week, we learned about a $13 million funding round secured by a startup called BEFORE Brands™ from private investors to “bring innovative, proprietary nutritional products directly to families.” BEFORE was founded by pediatrician Dr Kari Nadeau, a well known and respected researcher at the Sean N Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research at Stanford University.

The venture promises to introduce “edible products designed to be incorporated into the diet of infants around 6 months of age as part of solid food introduction.”

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Will BEFORE market affordable, accessible “Bamba like” products to help make it easier for families to introduce the appropriate foods to their infants at the appropriate times? Or will they embrace the dark side by foisting exorbitantly priced nutraceuticals on parents deathly afraid of another child developing life-threatening food allergies? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, here are our criteria for the development and introduction of such products, which we’ll call the Peanut Butter Test:

  • Effectiveness – Does the product provide the active ingredients indicated by the relevant study, such as the peanut protein found in peanut butter?
  • Ease – Does the product make it easy to add the food to your baby’s diet? Can you find it at your local supermarket or health food store like a jar of peanut butter?
  • Cost – Is the product relatively inexpensive so that a family struggling to make ends meet won’t have to forgo paying their electric bill? (You guessed it… like peanut butter.)

If instead, a company chooses to market expensive products with dubious value beyond what a family can already find on the shelves of their local market, we say “No thanks… please prospect elsewhere.”

In either case, stay tuned… we’ll cover them here.

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