Peanut allergy theory backed up by new research

Peanut products

  • 15th June  2016

The effects of eating peanut products as a baby to avoid the risk of allergy have been backed up by new research.

In 2015, a study claimed early exposure to peanut products could reeuce the risk by 80%.

Now researchers say "long-lasting" allergy protection can be sustained – even when the snacks are later avoided for a year.

The New England Journal of Medicine study looked at 550 children deemed prone to developing a peanut allergy.

The latest paper builds on the results of the 2015 research, which was also carried out by King's College London and marked the first time scientists were able to suggest that exposing children to small amounts of peanut snacks could stave off an allergy.

'Self-fulfilling prophecy'

The new study suggests that if a child has consumed peanut snacks within the first 11 months of life, then at the age of five they can afford to stop eating the food entirely for a year, and maintain no allergy.

Lead author Prof Gideon Lack said: "[The research] clearly demonstrates that the majority of infants did in fact remain protected and that the protection was long-lasting."

He said that part of the problem was that people lived in a "culture of food fear".

"I believe that this fear of food allergy has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, because the food is excluded from the diet and, as a result, the child fails to develop tolerance," he told the BBC News website.

The researchers used the same children who took part in the 2015 study – half of whom had been given peanut snacks as a baby while the remainder had been fed on a diet of breast milk alone.

Detection methods

"The study found that at six years of age, there was no statistically significant increase in allergy after 12 months of avoidance, in those who had consumed peanut during the [2015] trial," the authors said.

The children taking part in the study were considered prone to peanut allergy, because they had already developed eczema as a baby – an early warning sign of allergies.

Prof Lack said that further studies were needed to see if the resistance lasts for considerably longer than the 12-month abstinence period.

He said that in the UK and US combined, 20,000 babies a year are being diagnosed with peanut allergies.

He also said that between 1995 and 2005, the number of people being diagnosed had trebled, and this was not because detection methods had become any more advanced as they had remained the same.

Prof Barry Kay, from Imperial College London, said the study's results "point the way to completely fresh thinking on the mechanisms of tolerance to allergenic foods in 'at risk' infants".

Speaking about both pieces of research, Michael Walker, a consultant analyst and medical adviser to the government, said: "Taken together these are reassuring findings that pave the way to stem the epidemic of peanut allergy."


Peanut curry death: Restaurant owner Mohammed Zaman jailed

  • 23 May 2016

A "reckless" restaurant owner has been jailed for six years for the manslaughter of a customer who had an allergic reaction to a curry.

Paul Wilson, 38, suffered a severe anaphylactic shock in January 2014 after eating a takeaway containing peanuts from the Indian Garden in Easingwold, North Yorkshire.

Mohammed Zaman, 52, was found guilty at Teesside Crown Court.

The court heard he cut corners by using cheaper ingredients containing peanuts.

In what is thought to be a landmark trial, Zaman, of Aylesham Court, Huntington, denied he was responsible but a jury was told he switched almond powder for a cheaper ground nut mix, which contained peanuts.

Mr Wilson, a bar manager from Helperby, North Yorkshire, specified "no nuts" when he ordered a chicken tikka masala – an instruction which was written on his order and on the lid of his takeaway, the court heard.

'Cavalier attitude'

He died three weeks after a different customer with a peanut allergy bought a meal from one of Mr Zaman's six restaurants and had a reaction requiring hospital treatment.

The restaurateur had a "reckless and cavalier attitude to risk" and "put profit before safety" at all his outlets, the jury was told.

Zaman was almost £300,000 in debt and cut costs by using the cheaper nut powder and by employing untrained, illegal workers, the court heard.

Sentencing him, Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, said Zaman had remained "in complete and utter denial" and ignored warnings from officials after 17-year-old Ruby Scott suffered a reaction to a curry, three weeks before Mr Wilson's death.

He said he had thrown away his successful business and property portfolio worth £2m "in pursuit of profit".

Paul Wilson with his parents Margaret and Keith

"You have done so in such a manner as to bring about the death of another individual", said the judge.

"Paul Wilson was in the prime of his life.

"He, like you, worked in the catering trade. He, unlike you, was a careful man."

But the judge acknowledged Zaman was of "good character" and the sentence would have an impact on his wife and four children.

In a statement read out in court, Mr Wilson's parents, Margaret and Keith, from Sheffield, said they felt "numb, shock and disbelief" over their son's death.

"I feel robbed that I won't share the rest of my life with Paul"," Keith Wilson said.

'Totally avoidable'

Mrs Wilson said her son was "meticulous" about dealing with peanuts after a reaction to a chocolate bar at the age of seven.

She said the smell of peanuts, or accidentally drinking from the same glass as someone who was eating them, could trigger a reaction.

Danny Savage, North of England correspondent

Paul Wilson asked for a nut-free takeaway and tried to make himself sick when he realised he hadn't got what he ordered.

But it was too late. The anaphylactic shock killed him.

The restaurateur tried to blame everyone else but himself. Mohammed Zaman's drive to cut costs hospitalised one customer and killed another.

It's taken this case to emphasise just how serious a peanut allergy can be. Mistakes can be fatal.

Det Insp Shaun Page said Mr Wilson's death was "totally avoidable" and Zaman's "lack of remorse" had been striking.

"And trying to distance himself from any involvement in his death. That had struck me through this investigation. His lack of compassion and understanding about that he's actually done," he said.

He said the case was thought to be a legal first, setting a precedent for the food industry.

Mohammed Zaman

Zaman claimed he left managers to run his restaurants and that included ordering stock and hiring staff, telling jurors he was not on the premises when the curry was ordered.

Until his conviction, the restaurateur had "the immigrant story to which everyone should aspire", his barrister Alistair Webster QC had said in court.

Zaman was born in Bangladesh and came to the UK aged 15. He started working for his uncle in the restaurant business, finally owning six himself in York and North Yorkshire.

His restaurants won local business honours and acclaim from the British Catering Association and the British Curry Awards, the jury heard.

The father-of-four was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence and six food safety offences. He was cleared of a charge of perverting the course of justice.