Researchers stumped by peanut allergy rise

Nov. 29, 2005 at 3:42 PM
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BALTIMORE, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- U.S. children are more likely to be allergic to peanuts than those in developing countries and researchers say they are stumped over the reason.

Various studies have pointed to three major reasons why the portion of peanut-allergic children has doubled to about 1 percent of the U.S. population younger than 18. That rate is higher than many developing countries, China and Israel.

Potential causes include increasingly clean U.S. homes that exercise children's immune systems less, roasting rather than boiling peanuts and many parents not feeding peanuts to children until they are 3 or older.

"It's a moving target," Robert Wood, a Johns Hopkins University immunology professor, told the Newhouse News Service. "The numbers may be different by the time the next study gets done."

Although food allergy deaths are relatively rare, researchers estimate they claim 150-200 lives annually.

On Jan. 1, a new U.S. law goes into effect that requires food manufacturers to use plain language for ingredients that include peanuts, milk, eggs, wheat and seafood.

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