Food Allergy Research

Correcting Misconceptions About the LEAP Study

FARE is committed to ensuring that individuals and families managing food allergies receive accurate, evidence-based information about the disease. Incorrect information can lead to worse outcomes and potentially dangerous errors when it comes to food allergy.

Recently, FARE has noted a number of misleading and inaccurate articles, summaries and blog posts about the Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in February. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and FARE primarily funded this study.

A recent blog post by author and speaker Robyn O’Brien contains a number of important technical inaccuracies and misrepresentations that FARE is compelled to publicly correct:

O’Brien denigrates the study because it “threw out 10% of at-risk babies before it even started,” She states “it is akin to conducting a diabetes study on sugar, funded by the sugar industry, and throwing out the diabetics before you start.”

FACT: LEAP is a study focused on the prevention of food allergy in children with risk factors for peanut allergy – not on the treatment of existing food allergies. The infants who were ruled out of the study were not included because there was evidence these children were already allergic to peanuts and could have experienced serious reactions if they were enrolled in the study.

O’Brien stated that the New England Journal of Medicine did not disclose that some funding for the study was provided by the National Peanut Board.

FACT: The authors of the study disclosed all of the study’s funders and their conflicts of interest; the authors of the accompanying editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine also disclosed conflicts of interest. The funding disclosures are listed at the conclusion of the study, in keeping with established protocols of leading peer-reviewed scientific journals. By titling the blog post, “Science for Sale: The Funding Behind the Latest Study on Peanut Allergy,” O’Brien implies that the study is largely funded by corporate or private interests, which is false. She fails to mention the vast majority of the study’s funding came from the National Institutes of Health and FARE. The National Peanut Board, a minority funder, was contractually prohibited from influencing any aspect of the study design or interpretation of the results. The complete list of funders can be found here.

O’Brien states that Allergen Research Corporation (ARC) raised nearly $17 million, including support from FARE, to create “synthetic peanuts.”

FACT: ARC is not creating a synthetic peanut. ARC is working to develop pharmaceutical-grade, standardized peanut protein that can be used to generate a U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved oral immunotherapy.  Oral immunotherapy is a promising approach currently being studied for the treatment of food allergy.  The lack of a standardized food allergen product is the main factor that has prevented an FDA-approved peanut oral immunotherapy. In 2011, FARE was a minority investor in ARC and provided seed funding to establish the company. This investment was one of a number of strategies FARE undertook to help advance research of promising new treatments. For more information about ARC, please visit www.allergenresearch.com.

FARE’s position is that the LEAP study, which was rigorously designed, helps to provide definitive answers on whether feeding a food can prevent food allergy in an infant at risk for developing allergy. We have publicly expressed caution about misinterpreting the study. Media coverage about the LEAP study was often very oversimplified and confused the results. We wish to reinforce that parents or caregivers should not suddenly start giving their children peanuts without discussing this with their physician, especially if there is a family history of food allergy or the child has eczema.

Additional information from FARE about the LEAP study:

12 thoughts on “Correcting Misconceptions About the LEAP Study

  1. As a parent of a child with severe allergies, I am saddened that FARE took such a personal attack on Robyn’s article. The same info could have been presented in a more general way …. felt hateful. Why can’t we all fight together for the health and safety of our people and our world. We are all doing the best we can and all the information from all sides is important information to have. No one (no company nor organization included) is perfect nor is ever done learning. I just really wish FARE wouldn’t have made the choice to make it an issue of taking sides. Education is best received with compassion, not aggression. My opinion.

    1. Thank you for your feedback. FARE has previously published two blog posts (links are at the end of this one) addressing general questions and misconceptions about the study that were presented in the media. Because FARE was a primary funder of this study, we felt compelled to issue public corrections to the technical inaccuracies in her blog post regarding FARE and other misrepresentations of the study results.

    2. I have to agree with this. I wish instead of fighting a small blog article you were fighting the hundreds of articles with titles that were WRONG and purported that the study was a cure to peanut allergies. Look at this most recent one on slate where they author basically says she’s giving her baby peanuts to prevent allergies and parents before were doing it “wrong”. http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/the_kids/2015/03/peanuts_for_infants_to_prevent_food_allergies_give_infants_all_the_food.html

      Do you even know how many parents are doing this??? It’s insanity.

      I also haven’t heard FARE talk about how the National Peanut Counsel now has a website http://www.peanutallergyfacts.com that is not-surprisingly anti-peanut allergy bans and minimizes reactions from contact and inhalation..reactions I’ve witnessed with my own child.

      The National Peanut Counsel wants to sell peanuts. They should have NO place in the food allergy discussion because their goal is not to protect my child, it’s to sell the food that could kill mine. They should not be funding studies. If FARE isn’t fighting against that, perhaps FARE’s goals are no longer the same as mine.

      This is incredibly frustrating and angering and I hope someone forms a new food allergy advocacy agency that will fight against the big business who don’t care about our kids if FARE won’t.

  2. Also I have to point out that when you tweeted this article, it was Favorited by the “Peanut Allergy Facts” twitter handle. Peanut Allergy Facts = National Peanut Board. This whole thing seems like a massive conflict of interest.

    1. Robyn has a huge audience so to imply that her article is small is incorrect. She took the data from the study, skewed it to fit her audience, and then implied these well known, hard working, incredibly skilled physicians were being bought by the peanut board. She’s no better than any main media journalist not getting the story right. The exception is that she made defamatory remarks and it HAD to be corrected. Also, if I remember correctly, FARE isn’t all about food bans in schools either. The CDC guidelines specifically state that school bans are not necessary, and I completely agree. Ok, I’m getting off track here. The peanut council does want to sell peanuts. It would be great for business if so many people weren’t allergic, so good for them for helping fund the research. Remember that our biases against foods shouldn’t be pushed out to people as well. The foods do make our kids incredibly ill, but the individuals who work for these companies aren’t malevolent. If we go on hating against the very people who are producing these studies for our benefit, and criticizing the companies that give the funding, then eventually no one is going to want to be involved.

  3. This article clears the air to a fair extent. I wonder why people don’t cross check information before generating an argument around it. Sharing this wonderful news with other people with peanut allergies on http://www.affimity.com

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