Did you know that 1 in 12 children suffer from a food allergy? Food allergies continue to be on the rise, and believe it or not, most children diagnosed today do not have any direct family members with food allergy.
If you’re the parent of a child with a life-impacting food allergy, you’re all too aware of this statistic, and how we need to work to reduce childhood allergy risk.
That’s why Ready, Set, Food! is a game-changer for families, saving up to 200,000 babies a year from severe food allergies. Ready, Set Food! was founded in 2018 after Co-founder Dr. Andrew Leitner’s son Abe developed food allergies at just 7-months old. Dr. Leitner knew of the importance of sustained and early allergen introduction in children to help significantly reduce the risk of developing food allergies. Sadly he found even 7-months was too late. He missed a critical immune window with Abe, and that turned into a passionate journey to help other families ward off food allergies.
That’s where Co-founder and Chief Allergist Dr. Katie Marks-Cogan came into play. As a Board-Certified Allergist, Dr. Marks-Cogan knew that consistent and early allergen introduction was essential for significantly reducing her son David’s risk of developing food allergies. So important, it’s now included as part of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines Report For Americans. Dr. Marks-Cogan found compiling and measuring the foods each week to be exhausting. She knew there had to be a better way. She joined Dr. Leitner and a team of leading pediatricians, allergists and food scientists to make early and sustained allergen introduction easy for busy families and picky eaters.
Ready, Set, Food! is a daily supplement that gently introduces your baby to peanut, egg and milk. They’re the three most important childhood food allergens, and studies show this gentle introduction helps reduce the risk of developing allergies by up to 80%. For the first time ever, the new USDA guidelines recommend feeding babies peanut and egg starting at 4 months of age to prevent severe food allergies, and Ready, Set, Food! makes this easy to do.
Watch Ready, Set, Food! on Shark Tank: https://vimeo.com/407742972
As seen on Shark Tank, Ready, Set, Food! secured a deal with Entrepreneur and “Shark” investor Mark Cuban to grow their business. In partnership with Mark Cuban and Advocate Aurora, Ready, Set, Food! is committed to making food freedom accessible to those in need, through their Giving Back Program, where eligible families receive a free 6-month subscription ($294 value). Their team of passionate parents and physicians believe every family should have equal access to improving their child’s health.
We got to talk with Dr. Marks-Cogan about Ready, Set, Food! and the importance and benefits of early allergen introduction in our babies’ diets.
Q: What are the new guidelines for dietary recommendations for early allergen introduction in babies?
A: Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) releases a report that uses evidence-based research to offer guidelines for healthy food choices for children, parents and seniors. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee earlier this year. The guidelines recommend feeding babies peanut and egg starting at 4-months of age to reduce the risk of food allergies developing. This recommendation was supported by clinical trials (LEAP, EAT, PETIT) that showed the safety and efficacy in significantly reducing a baby’s risk of developing food allergies. It stresses that early introduction is key for reducing the risk of developing food allergies by up to 80%.
Q: Why is this so important?
A: Food allergy rates have significantly increased over the last few decades, and with alarming and deadly consequences. Fortunately, research supports the efforts parents can make to help reduce their infants’ risks of developing food allergies by up to 80% with early and consistent allergen exposure. With this research and the new guidelines, we recommend that parents introduce allergenic foods into baby’s diet around 4-6 months of age, and continue regularly for several months.
Q: That sounds a bit early?
A: Starting as early as 4-6 months may be even more effective at reducing your baby’s risk of developing food allergies. Allergen introduction is still recommended for babies up to 11-months of age as positive results have been seen in the studies with babies who started that late. But studies show that delaying allergen introduction may put your child at higher risk, and that’s what happened with Dr. Leitner’s son Abe.
Q: And what about that sustained part?
A: Sustained exposure can be hard, but it’s necessary. It’s hard because getting an infant to eat anything may be challenging. One of the landmark studies we reference achieved only ~50% compliance (EAT Study). That’s why we knew we needed to make sure our product could make sustained exposure safe and gentle for babies, and convenient for parents.
Q: I want to do baby-led weaning when I introduce solids. Can’t I just feed my baby eggs, peanuts, milk and more myself?
A: You can introduce these foods yourself. The main goal is that every parent does early allergen introduction. Oftentimes this can be difficult to do since many babies aren’t ready to eat until 6 months or later and sustaining exposure can be difficult as well.
When my son was a baby, I tried introducing these foods to him, which was extremely difficult. I had to prepare the food, track how often I was giving him the allergens, and make sure that he was actually eating the food. Going through this frustrating process was one of the main reasons we wanted to create Ready, Set, Food!, and why I’m so passionate about introducing this great product to new moms. Q: Why do you think childhood food allergies have so dramatically increased?
A: That’s a great question. Today, 1 in 12 children suffer from food allergy, and food allergies are still on the rise. There are a couple of theories behind why children develop food allergies. One is food allergen avoidance—the belief that avoiding allergenic foods in the child’s first year would help prevent allergy. We now know this is not the case, and is actually a risk factor for food allergy development. A recent study found that less than a third of doctors are following the updated NIAID peanut allergy prevention guidelines, which recommend starting allergen introduction when babies are in the 4-6 month age range.
There’s also evidence that infants with low Vitamin D levels are more likely to develop food allergies.
Many studies suggest that exposure through the skin can promote an allergy, while early oral exposure may promote tolerance and ward off an allergy.
Some are concerned about the lack of exposure to germs or allergens today which may skew a child’s immune system toward the development of an allergy.
Q: Doesn’t my baby get exposure to peanuts, egg, milk and more while I’m pregnant or nursing? Can’t that reduce their risk?
A: Currently, the science just doesn’t support maternal diets during pregnancy or breastfeeding as protective against food allergy. It’s still being studied, but the evidence is still inconclusive. Since early and consistent allergen exposure does show success, it’s now part of current national guidelines.
Q: What can you tell us about the allergy/eczema connection?
A: Eczema is really common in children. About 9-10 million children in the U.S under the age of 18 have a type of eczema called atopic dermatitis. It’s basically caused by a malfunction in the immune system and a problem with the skin barrier. Children with atopic dermatitis develop red, rashy, and itchy skin. We know that children with atopic dermatitis have a higher risk of developing food allergies and recent landmark studies have shown that early and sustained allergen introduction is particularly important in this group of children.
Q: So what exactly IS Ready, Set, Food!?
A: Ready, Set, Food! is a pre-measured daily supplement containing key allergens (peanut, egg and milk) that mixes with breastmilk or formula in a bottle. Or it can be added to food. Its recommended for 4-11 months of age and to be continued in the diet for 6-months, or until your baby is regularly eating these foods in their diet.
Q: What about the ingredients? Are they clean?
A: Yes, the ingredients are 100% non-GMO; organic peanuts, cooked egg whites and cow’s milk — and that’s it. They are sourced from real foods, with no preservatives, added sugar or additives.
Q: What would you tell moms who are ready to give Ready, Set, Food! a shot but are worried about reactions?
A: That’s another great question—and an important one too. In the three landmark clinical trials on food allergy prevention that were mentioned earlier with over 2,000 infants who participated in those studies, there were no cases of severe allergic reactions. This underscores the inherent safety of early allergen introduction.
However, parents should be still aware of the signs of an allergic reaction, which in most babies will appear as hives and/or vomiting. These reactions typically happen within seconds to minutes of your baby consuming the food, and almost always within two hours. The reactions can vary, even in the same person. There’s no way to predict the type of reaction your child will have each time they eat a food they’re allergic to, and food allergies can actually occur in people of any age.
Extreme reactions will include shortness of breath, trouble swallowing, chest pain, fainting and loss of consciousness. If an allergic reaction involves these symptoms in more than one body organ system, it is considered anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening.
It’s important to note that if your child has an allergic reaction, you need to stop feeding that particular food and seek immediate medical advice from your pediatrician or allergist.