Background In 1998, the UK government issued precautionary advice that pregnant or breast-feeding women with a family history of atopy, may wish to avoid eating peanuts during pregnancy and lactation. This study aimed to assess the compliance with this recommendation and investigate its impact upon peanut sensitization. Methods A total of 858 children born immediately after the advice were followed for 2 years and assessed for peanut sensitization. A standardized questionnaire was used to ascertain history of atopy and maternal exposure to peanuts during pregnancy. Following parental consent children were skin prick tested to assess sensitization to peanuts. Results Sixty-five per cent of mothers had avoided peanuts during pregnancy. Forty-two per cent of the mothers had heard about the government advice, and half modified their diet as a consequence. Neither maternal nor family history of atopy had any significant effect on peanut consumption. Parity did play a role, and mothers having their first child were twice as likely to change their diet (P < 0.001). Mothers of 77% of the children sensitized to peanuts had avoided peanuts during pregnancy. In this cohort study maternal consumption of peanut during pregnancy was not associated with peanut sensitization in the infant. Conclusions The majority of mothers in this cohort avoided peanut consumption during pregnancy. It is likely that either the government advice is misunderstood by mothers, or that those who communicate the advice have not fully explained who it is targeted at.