The phenotypic expression and natural history of food allergy vary widely according to the patient's age, disease presentation and type of offending food. Prevention of food allergy might be achieved by altering the dietary factors responsible for the sensitization and phenotypic expression of the disease. Owing to the peculiarity of the atopic status, a minute amount of allergens can trigger both sensitization and symptoms in atopic individuals. The oral dose of beta-lactoglobulin causing sensitization can be estimated to be between 1 ng and several milligrams. In food allergy, sensitization and treatment are allergen specific; therefore, for primary prevention (avoiding sensitization) and secondary prevention of food allergy (avoiding symptoms in an already sensitized subject), a product without immunogenic and allergenic epitopes should be given in each case. Babies of atopic parents are particularly prone to develop food allergy and for this reason they are called high-risk babies. Cow's milk is the most commonly offending food in both gastrointestinal and cutaneous manifestations. Cow's milk proteins are potent allergens and around 2.5% of infants experience cow's milk allergy in the first years of life. The major risk factors for cow's milk allergy are positive family history of atopy and early exposure to cow's milk proteins. Hydrolysate formulae have been developed for the purpose of reducing the allergenicity of cow's milk proteins. More recently, partially and extensively hydrolysed formulae have also been used for feeding babies with a high risk of atopy for the prevention of cow's milk allergy. However, according to the results of a recent randomized controlled study, only an extensively hydrolysated formula, and not a partially hydrolysated formula, significantly decreased the prevalence of cow's milk allergy.