This week Nestle has announced it will develop and market a milk allergy skin patch test for infants, in a bid to boost sales of formula to babies with allergies:
(See Reuters - http://uk.reuters.com/article/us-nestle-health-milk-idUKKCN0YM0D2)
The global deal launches Nestle into a highly regulated field and has significant implications for worried parents who may turn to allergy testing themselves. Dr Gill Hart is Scientific Director at YorkTest Laboratories, which has over 30 years of excellence in laboratory diagnostic testing and is Europe’s leading provider of food and drink specific IgG antibody testing programmes. In response to the announcement, Dr Hart warned of the dangers of seeking a quick allergy test result. She commented:
It’s important that parents are educated on the bigger picture around testing of this nature. While indeed 2-3% of babies may suffer from milk allergy, it is estimated that more suffer from milk intolerance, and this would be missed by the ‘skin patch allergy tests’ proposed by Nestle. In addition, food allergy tests do not always pick up positive reactions, for example, a baby that has not been exposed to peanuts will not show a positive on a peanut allergy test, but peanuts may still be a problem for them when they are exposed.
Another hurdle is what action parents will take if a test is positive. It’s great to have alternative milks available, but what do these milks contain? Milk made from soya or other ingredients can also cause allergy or intolerance reactions, so will these be tested for too? It’s important that any recommendation to remove this staple from the diet of babies requires dietetic or registered nutritional therapist support to ensure that foods removed are replaced with something equally nutritious.
If this initiative is given the green light by regulators, it’s important that the test is suitably caveated so its limitations are clear, not least that allergy tests will not test for food intolerances OR lactose intolerance AND can be susceptible to false negative results. It’s important to give the whole picture, upon which parents can make an informed decision.
It’s understandable that, faced with an unsettled child, it may be challenging for parents and carers to wait for a GP appointment or referral to an allergy clinic, and a “quick result” home allergy test could be appealing. The best advice for any parent who is concerned their baby has a potential allergy or intolerance is to go and visit your GP first, with referral and testing as required.
While YorkTest is committed to optimising diet and wellbeing, we do not offer testing to under twos without GP referral, because the immune system is still developing at this young age.
Parent-friendly YorkTest guides include ‘What are the Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance in Toddlers and How Does it Differ From Dairy Intolerance?’