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Go to any birthday party, school lunch, or neighborhood picnic and it’s obvious… With allergies to nuts, dairy, eggs, soy, gluten, and more, we have a food allergy epidemic going on. It’s affecting our kids on a large scale, and many parents are left wondering why… and what to do about it.
This is why I’ve been paying close attention to the research since several landmark studies on food allergies came out. The research clearly showed for the first time that early exposure is key to reducing future food allergy risk — the opposite of the standard approach at the time.
I wrote about this topic in-depth before and a company called Ready, Set, Food! making it easier and safer for parents to act on this research. I got so many great questions that I wanted to give my full review and share why I chose to help spread the word about this potential solution to the food allergy crisis.
Food Allergies in Kids: A Growing Problem
5.6 million — that’s how many children in the U.S. have food allergies, according to the CDC. That’s 1 in 13 kids.
While that’s an alarming statistic in and of itself, it’s also concerning how quickly the numbers of allergy-compromised kids are rising. Again according to the CDC, food allergies in kids have increased by 50 percent in recent years.
What’s causing these changes? There are many theories, but in 2015 the first large landmark studies on the topic brought some clarity to the picture.
From Avoidance to Exposure
I can’t claim a lot of firsthand experience when it comes to food allergies (other than a brief dairy intolerance with my son).
However, I’ve been to the pediatrician’s office enough times with an infant to know that the common advice in recent decades has been to wait to introduce common allergens (like eggs or peanuts) until a year or two years of age.
Many of us acted on this in good faith (myself included), but what I didn’t realize at the time was that there was no significant research to back up this approach.
When the first landmark studies came out, they painted a very different picture!
LEAP and EAT Studies
The LEAP (“Learning Early About Peanut Allergy”) and EAT (“Enquiring About Tolerance”) studies released in 2015 found that early and frequent introduction of peanut, egg, and dairy between the age of 4-11 months could significantly reduce the risk of future allergies to these foods.
The studies changed everything… and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the National Institute for Health (NIH) issued new guidelines to parents.
One problem though…
Many parents (and doctors) still aren’t educated enough on this research. Also, there’s the practical problem of how to safely introduce these foods during the prescribed window (4-11 months)… possibly before a child even starts solid foods!
This is why I took notice when Ready, Set, Food! approached me about their simple, science-backed system, all started by two parents who were also MDs and allergy specialists. Their commitment to research and education impressed me, and I knew I wanted to help get the word out.
I teamed up with some mom friends with littles to try it out. Many of them had older children with food allergies and were interested in any science that could help avoid a repeat experience.
Ready, Set, Food! Review & How to Use It
If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, then these revised guidelines may save many families from the worry and stress of a serious food allergy.
One serious drawback: the LEAP and EAT studies show that introducing egg, peanut, and milk gives the best results during the age of 4-11 months. They also suggest that breastfeeding alone doesn’t have the same allergy risk-reducing effect.
To close the gap, Dr. Andy Leitner and Dr. Katie Marks-Cogan designed a system called Ready, Set, Food! It consists of individual packets containing pure, powdered egg, dairy, and peanut in safe, targeted amounts.
The Ready, Set, Food! System: How It Works
When you buy Ready, Set, Food!, you get two boxes, one for each of stage of the program:
Stage 1 is the introduction stage, ideally starting when baby is 4 months (I personally would start at 6 months. I explain why below.) You receive 15 individual packets, each color-coded and clearly labeled for each week and day of the program.
The packets contain carefully measured, precise amounts of the following ingredients:
- Ingredients Days 1-4: Organic cow’s milk
- Ingredients Days 5-8: Organic cow’s milk, organic cooked egg white
- Ingredients Days 9-15: Organic cow’s milk, organic peanut, organic cooked egg white
How to Use: Open the packet for the day and add the finely powdered contents to a bottle of expressed breast milk, formula, or age-appropriate baby food.
In our test, the powder dissolved completely and quickly even in cold breastmilk or formula without much effort (it takes about 10 seconds). The babies also didn’t seem to notice anything different about the content of the bottle.
The Stage 2 box contains 30 individual packets of the maintenance formula, which simply contains organic cow’s milk, organic peanuts, and organic cooked egg white.
Continue the maintenance system for a minimum of 6 months. This follow-through is very important to get the results found in the studies.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the great questions you’ve asked:
Is It Safe?
I certainly approach giving a baby any supplement or food with an abundance of caution. I always encourage you to do your own research and to consult with your doctor for the best approach for your child.
It may not be how we’re used to thinking about things, but a 2018 study confirmed that infants have less chance of a serious allergic reaction (anaphylactic) than toddlers/older children. Another finding that flies in the face of the outdated approach of avoidance.
Personally, after checking out the studies and what the experts say, as well as seeing the product, I would give Ready, Set, Food! to my own children if it had been available when I had babies… with a few modifications.
What I Would Do:
Despite the studies’ recommendation, I’d wait until 6 months to start anything other than breastmilk, since some more recent studies suggest that anything else could negatively affect an infant’s microbiome. (Also, waiting would reduce any chance of nipple confusion in a breastfeeding infant.)
However, be aware that my recommendation departs from the LEAP or EAT studies, and from what Ready, Set, Food! recommends for best results.
Read more about their standards for safety here.
How Much Does It Cost?
A box of supplements costs $48 with a monthly subscription (get a discount through this link). That’s roughly $250 in total for the 6 month system or $1.50 per day.
Why Do I Recommend RSF Above Other Brands?
Ready, Set, Food! isn’t the only early introduction system on the market, but after comparing I find it to be the product that makes the most sense for families. This is because:
- Founded by both parents and doctors – Founders Dr. Andy Leitner and Dr. Katie Marks-Cogan are both brilliant doctors, but they are also parents. They understand both the science and the responsibility parents feel when making decisions that affect their children’s health.
- Precise – The dosing in the packets follows the studies and guidelines very precisely (unlike other similar products on the market).
- Step system – It introduces only one allergen at a time, according to recommendations.
- Dissolves in breastmilk or formula – It can be introduced in a bottle (especially important since I would feel more comfortable waiting until 6 months for any solid food). The powder also doesn’t clog bottle nipples unlike some other brands.
- Simple – There’s only one packet/dosing a day. (Other companies require multiple dosings.)
- Education first – I appreciate Ready, Set, Food!’s education-focused website and direct linking to studies for transparency and authority. Check out their website to see what I mean!
It’s worth mentioning that other brands do cover more allergens than just the three in RSF. However, since egg, peanut, and milk were the only foods studied in the LEAP and EAT reports, I feel the most comfortable recommending a product that targets those three.
My Thoughts on Ready, Set, Food!
While it may seem like a radical suggestion (especially from me!) to give your baby a powdered supplement, after checking out the research I personally feel this is a giant step forward in saving families from the hassle and worry of food allergies. I’m glad to finally see concrete research to guide parents on a confusing problem.
If you want to dive into the research further, here are some resources to get started:
Do you worry about food allergies in your family? What questions didn’t I answer? Let me know in the comments below!
- FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education). “Facts and Statistics.” https://www.foodallergy.org/life-with-food-allergies/food-allergy-101/facts-and-statistics
- American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Nutrition. Hypoallergenic infant formulas. Pediatrics 2000; 106:346-349.
- Catassu C, et al. Intestinal permeability changes during the first month: effects of natural versus artificial feeding. J Pediatr Gastroenerol Nutr 1995; 21:383- 386.
- Gronlund MM, et al. Fecal microflora in healthy infants born by different methods of delivery: permanent changes in intestinal flora after cesarean delivery. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 1999: 28: 19-25.
- Kimpimaki T, et al. Short-term exclusive breastfeeding predisposes young children with increased genetic risk of Type I Diabetes to progressive beta-cell autoimmunity. Diabetologia 2001; 44: 63-69
- AAP News. “New guidelines detail use of ‘infant-safe’ peanut to prevent allergy.” https://www.aappublications.org/news/2017/01/05/PeanutAllergy010517
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Scott Soerries, MD, Family Physician and Medical Director of SteadyMD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.