Are eggs safe for my baby?
Time and time again I read atrocious parenting advice for parents. I'm sure some say the same about my advice, but this particular advice could be the difference between life and death.
Over my coffee this morning, I was enthusiastically reading a newly launched 'solid guide' by a 'so-called' internationally-renowned family wellbeing and nutrition expert. The advice given, amongst other questionable information, was that it's okay to give eggs to babies before one year of age. Well, this has me screaming inside for all the baby's that have parents that will take this as gospel and unknowingly place their baby in danger.
I BELIEVE IT IS NOT OKAY TO FEED YOUR BABY EGGS BEFORE ONE YEAR OF AGE, IT IS NOT SAFE, despite recent suggestions that this may help your baby avoid an allergy later on in life. Some of you may be aware of the study held by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and University of Melbourne saying the delay of eggs into a baby's diet may actually increase their risk of developing an allergy to egg. Controversially the authors of the study also suggest 'introducing solid foods, including known allergens, before six months.' Whereas the World Health Organisation advise no solids before six months of age, and when you look at the research on Salmonella poisoning from eggs, one has to question the safety of such suggestions.
What do the FDA say about eggs and Salmonella poisoning?
The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) state there are 30 deaths each year caused by eating eggs contaminated with Salmonella, and that's only the cases they know of. They say, 'Consuming dangerous foodborne bacteria will usually cause illness within 1 to 3 days of eating the contaminated food. However, sickness can also occur within 20 minutes or up to 6 weeks later. Although most people will recover from a foodborne illness within a short period of time, some can develop chronic, severe, or even life-threatening health problems. Foodborne illness can sometimes be confused with other illnesses that have similar symptoms. The symptoms of foodborne illness can include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, and body ache.' 1
What do other studies say?
'In the United States of America, infants under the age of 1 year have the highest reported incidence rate of salmonellosis, with the highest rate in infants 2 months of age, and an abrupt decrease after infancy (Olsen et al., 2001). Most cases are relatively mild. However, as with the immunocompromised and the elderly, children also face a relatively higher rate of severe outcomes, including death, than other demographic categories. Olsen et al. (2001) note a 4-13-fold higher rate of invasive disease in young children than other age groups.' 2
Also, according to a study in 2014 on the 'Risk Factors for Human Salmonellosis' there is a increased risk of poisoning while on an Acid Inhibiting Drug (PPI). Understandable because their is no acid in the stomach to fight the bacteria. 3 Another study states that there is an 'increased susceptibility upon first exposure.' 4
Up-to-date research on Salmonella specific to one year old's in New Zealand is very hard to find. Before 2006, the outbreak rates were quite high but this statistic was in a collective age range of 0-60, although the ratio of cases sat largely with younger children. 5 Then quite a few changes were made, one of them being a reduction in imported eggs. Now, according to the Ministry of Primary Industries, 'Only a small number of egg products and some hatching eggs can be imported into New Zealand, because of biosecurity requirements.'6 Now, thankfully, the population that suffer Salmonella are VERY low compared to other countries and in the research that I have done and know off, there have thankfully been no reported deaths of this in the last decade.
With all of this known, my advice as a health professional to parents is 'why take the risk?' Even though the numbers are low in New Zealand, and 30 is small relative to the USA population, as a health professional I still suggest parents play it safe, air on the side of caution and not give children eggs before the age of one.