The role of primary prevention of allergic diseases has been a matter of debate for the last 40 years. In order to shed some light into this issue, a group of experts of the Section of Pediatrics EAACI critically reviewed the existing literature on the subject. In this paper, the immunology of the fetus and newborn is reviewed as well as the post-natal development of the immune system. The influence of post-natal environment and breastfeeding on tolerance induction and sensitization are examined. Allergic diseases result from a strong relationship between genetic and environmental factors. Sensitization to food allergens occurs in the first year of life and cow's milk allergy is the first food allergy to appear in the susceptible infants. Hypoallergenicity of food formulas to be used is a critical issue both for treatment of cow's milk-allergic children and for prevention. Methods to document hypoallergenicity are discussed and evaluated in the preclinical and clinical steps.