Half of babies are being 'put at risk' by being put on egg free diets over needless health fears, say researchers

A new study found almost half of babies aren't being offered eggs despite this helping to drive down allergy risks and provide essential nutrients for growth and development and has since been covered in national publications including Daily Mail and MSN.

Eggs are being missed out in the weaning diets of almost half of babies (46%), according to the research published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics by a team from Swansea University, which also revealed that just four in 10 babies aged 6-8 months are offered eggs on a weekly basis.

Eggs are recommended from the age of six months, not just for their rich protein and nutrient content which supports growth and development, but because earlier introduction can actually help reduce the risk of egg allergy. Eggs – including ones with runny yolks – are also deemed to be safe for infants and other vulnerable groups as long as they have the British Lion mark, according to UK official advice.

Co-Author of the study, Professor Amy Brown, from the Centre for Lactation, Infant Feeding and Translation, says: "Parents have received conflicting advice about eggs safety and allergy over the past 30 years which may have put them off giving eggs to their babies. Current advice from the UK Department of Health recommends that eggs stamped with the British Lion mark are safe for babies to eat partially cooked and that eggs should be introduced from the start of weaning at 6 months.

"This reflects expert opinion that there's no benefit to delaying the introduction of potentially allergenic foods, such as eggs, dairy and peanuts, coupled with growing evidence that later introduction may, in fact, result in a higher risk of food hypersensitivity and allergy. Allergies to eggs affect around 2% of UK children under the age of two years, although most grow out of it".

The study was based on dietary questionnaires collected from 548 families with babies aged six to 12 months.  Comparisons were also made between parents following a baby-led weaning approach (where infants self-feed family foods) and the traditional approach where pureed foods are given first.

Babies were more likely to be offered eggs in baby-led weaning situations or where they had stay-at-home mums. The authors speculated this may be because nurseries and carers tended to avoid giving eggs. 

Dr Hannah Rowan, who collected the data as part of her PhD, thesis, comments: "We need to explore why some nurseries are not putting eggs on the menu. Is it out-of-date concerns about allergy and food safety, or perhaps giving toast and cereal for breakfast is seen as more convenient? It could also be that older family members who are looking after babies believe that eggs should be avoided because they still remember the salmonella in eggs scare in the 1980s, which has long been addressed.

“Eggs in different forms are seen as a particularly suitable finger food when following Baby Led Weaning but Department of Health guidance recommends that babies are given finger foods from the start of weaning, however they are fed, so they should also be given early when babies are spoon-fed.”

Dietitian, Dr Carrie Ruxton adds: "Parents and carers can be reassured that eggs are a healthy, inexpensive food for babies since they contain high quality protein for growth, vitamin D for bones and immunity, and choline for brain and cognitive function. Introducing eggs at six months is recommended by experts[6] since this lowers the risk of developing egg allergy as demonstrated by studies such as the Australian HealthNuts study which found benefits when eggs were introduced at six months rather than 10-12 months or later.

"So, there's no reason to wait to give eggs when weaning your baby at around 6 months. They are safe and nutritious, and it takes only a few minutes to rustle up a scrambled egg or an omelette".

For more advice, visit www.egginfo.co.uk/egg-safety/advice-mums-and-babies