Why don’t Israeli kids have peanut allergies?

In Israel, peanut allergies are virtually nonexistent, and that’s changing the way experts approach peanut allergy prevention here in the U.S.

In Israel, peanut allergies are virtually nonexistent, and that's changing the way experts approach peanut allergy prevention here in the U.S.

In the U.S., peanut allergies more than tripled between 1997 and 2008. In Israel, though, peanut allergies are barely on the radar. The difference may just be in a popular children’s snack food.

Marion Nestle just returned from a trip to Israel and wondered why she heard virtually nothing about peanut allergies while the was there. Here in the States, it seems like you can’t buy packaged food or eat at a restaurant without seeing allergy warnings.

Related: Discrimination Because of a Peanut Allergy?

In Israel, parents give their babies a snack called Bamba, which contains peanuts. Nestle describes them as “peanut-flavored Cheetos,” and it sounds like they’re similar to the teething biscuits or puffs that parents in the U.S. give to babies. The difference is that Bamba contains peanuts, and there’s good evidence that this early introduction is what’s protecting Israeli kids from peanut allergies.

The link between early introduction and fewer allergies is nothing new, but since many American parents still hold off on introducing peanuts during the first year (I certainly did!), it’s something that’s worth bringing up again. In 2015, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) changed their recommendations for when to introduce peanuts. The new guidelines recommend introducing them between four and 11 months, even in high risk kids.

That doesn’t mean you should give your baby a spoonful of peanut butter and walk away, though. Peanut allergies are real, and while early introduction may prevent an allergy, it’s not a 100 percent guarantee. Healthy Children has some good guidelines for how to introduce peanuts to kids, especially high risk kids. Basically, they recommend talking to a pediatrician if you have any concerns and watching your child closely after giving them food containing peanuts.

Related: Living with Food Allergies

My son’s pediatrician told us that the reaction may not occur the first time a child eats peanut products, so she suggested giving a small amount of peanuts – maybe a tiny bit of peanut butter on the top of your finger – in the morning for a few days and monitoring our son for signs of a rash, coughing, or shortness of breath.

Healthy Children also points out that this research applies to peanuts and may not extend to other foods.

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Geoff Stearns.

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About the Author

My name is Becky Striepe (rhymes with “sleepy”), and I am a crafts and food writer from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for making our planet a healthier, happier, and more compassionate place to live. My mission is to make vegan food and crafts accessible to everyone!. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .
  • Allergy mom

    So, every single baby in Israel eats this stuff!?!??! I don’t ‘buy’ it. I think its more related to how we process & ‘treat’ our food in 1st world contries

    • Michael

      But Israel is a 1st world country

  • Susan Phillippe

    I absolutely believe this because one time as a child I became allergic to tomatoes. I loved tomatoes and while spending the week with cousins my aunt made tomato gravy. I was about eight years old and tomato starved! I consumed about nine pieces of bread smothered in tomatoes. That night my back was entirely covered with hives! From that day forward I have eaten tomatoes in one way or another almost every day and have never again had a reaction! I am now 65.

  • Not so

    Except they do have them in Israel. http://www.nbn.org.il/aliyahpedia/government-services/health-care-national-insurance/children-food-allergies/ Not sure where you got your info from.

  • Vanunu

    They must not use squalene (peanut oil derivative) in their vaccines.

  • Yes, only in US this shit is going on with peanut allergies, gluten free products, organics etc, no other countries playing those food games with consumers.

  • jc

    i read these articles and i gave my daughter a tiny bit of peanut better, about the size of sesame. She started getting rashes on her faces within 5 mins, we rushed to emergency room, and she end up being ok.
    so be aware when you try this !!!!

    • Definitely! Our pediatrician recommended doing it in the morning, so you would be able to monitor and react exactly like you did if something seemed wrong. I’m so sorry that you went through this. How terrible!

  • jc

    and my daughter at that time was about 10 months. we were lucky we live 5 mins from the emergency room, so if you try this, get close to a hospital, jus tin case.

  • Vicki Stone

    how is it when we baby boomers were kids, except for a few dog and cat allergies, ALLERGIES was NOT a thing???? I don’t know of any kid in those far gone days who suffered the way our current government tries to keep us!!

  • I have IBS and developed lactose intolerance as an adult yet I continue to eat/drink dairy products. When I stop I get very sick from them. I read an article that said that exposure is very important otherwise you become very intolerant over time. I don’t eat enough green leafy vegetables to make up for lack of calcium if I stop eating yogurt etc. So this article makes a lot of sense to me.

  • I rarely comment on articles, bu I feel more people need to know that food allergy treatment is also changing. Our previous allergist was part of the “avoid at all cost” school of thought. But we have since changed and my daughter is undergoing food allergy desensitization. She’s currently working through egg, but peanut is next. They started with peanut as a practice and have over a 90% success rate. It’s not some sketchy office either. The doctor is the Division Head, Allergy and Immunology, at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. I recommend it highly and think more people should look to see if treatment like this is available near them. It’s been life changing for our family. http://nefoodallergy.org/ is where we go and well worth the drive.

    • This is so interesting, Amber. Thank you for sharing this info!

  • CharlotteB

    This is so wrong. They didn’t start telling you to do no peanuts the first year UNTIL the number of peanut allergies went up. Why don’t they check the vaccination rates in Israel, or the amount and type of pesticides on the peanut crops….both have been implicated in peanut allergies.

  • Janelle Schaffner

    I was an enthusiastic peanut eater until about 3 or so years ago… I started notice tightness in my chest and it felt like I was breathing through cotton. An allergist confirmed with a blood test a peanut allergy and now even a small accidental ingestion will give me a big reaction. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. I guess they can only go by what the best evidence points to at any given time.

  • Even big kids and adults lke Bamba – why should babies have all the fun foods?

    • Ha! Good point. We gave my kid puffs when he was a baby, and I used to steal them all the time. They’re so good!

  • Ed

    We did the same, introduced our children and then our grandchildren to Bamba.
    Even my grandma loved it when she spent her last years in assisted living.. Great test and a cool snack to serve our guests

  • I don’t remember anyone with a peanut allergy when I was a kid. We ate PB &J sandwiches and nobody scrutinized tge goodies our moms baked for school parties. Why so many allergies now?

  • Patrice Toney

    My youngest son was breastfed till age 18 months. I ate peanuts almost everyday while nursing and residual peanut came through my milk. My son at 8 months was diagnosed with peanut allergy at which time I obviously, stopped eating peanuts. At age 3 and age 6 he accidentally ate minimal amounts of peanut. He had the epi pen both times in order to save his life. He has since then tested as high as the test will go for peanut allergy. So, in our case this does not hold true since he had minimal amounts given to him; however, he probably had too much peanut introduced through my milk. I wish I had realized that peanuts came through my milk. My older two children did not have any reaction to peanuts or anything I ate while they were breastfeeding.

  • Reformed

    What they fail to mention is that in Israel they do not use peanut adjuvants in their vaccines like we do here in the U.S. They use sesame seed oil instead. Therein lies the reason. When children receive a vaccine with peanut oil, their body thinks that it has to produce antibodies to fight it off. When the body does this, it reacts in such a way that produces an autoimmune response (which is the body attacking itself) – this is why some become “allergic” to peanuts. Their body thinks it is a foreign invader and the body turns against itself causing an anaphylactic reaction to what it perceives as a foreign invader.

  • Helen1L

    I give my kids everything and then I watch them. Environmental factors do play a role too. But I even give my kids honey against expert advice. Experts are idiots who always recant later. people survived for centuries without these idiot experts.