There is nothing more Americanah that eating a PB&J sandwich or chomping on peanuts during a baseball game, but for 2.8 Americans, life-threatening allergies prevent them from enjoying foods that contain any form of peanuts. However, researchers are developing a non-allergenic peanut that is treated to prevent life-threatening reactions.
Researchers from North Carolina A&T State University have successfully removed allergens from peanuts, resulting in nuts that would be safe for those with peanut allergies to eat. "We found that treating peanuts with protein-breaking enzymes reduced allergenic proteins," says Dr. Jianmai Yu, a food and nutrition researcher at NC A&T's School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.
Shelled and skinless peanuts are treated with a food-grade enzyme that reduces two main allergens by 98 to 100 percent. The new non-allergenic peanuts are safe to eat whole, when broken in pieces, or ground into flour. The peanuts do no change color and the treatment doesn't affect shelf life.
The non-allergenic peanuts would prevent anaphylaxis, a common and serious allergic reaction that includes symptoms such as: swelling of the tongue, eyes or face, nausea and vomiting, rashes, low blood pressure, difficulty breathing and death.
"Peanuts are increasingly used in food products, which make it difficult for the allergic individuals to avoid accidental exposure. Therefore, it is very important for us to find a way to make peanuts less or non-allergenic," Yu says.
Serious allergic reactions caused by peanuts occur in approximately 0.9 percent of American, 400,000 of them children.
According to the USDA, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Medicine successfully tested the research on human test subjects using skin-prick tests.
NC A&T State University received funding for the research through a grant from the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The university signed a licensing agreement for the process with Xemerge, a Toronto-based food and agriculture technology firm, to develop non-allergenic peanut products that will be in stores "in the near future," the USDA says.
"This is one of the best technologies in the food and nutrition space we have seen," says Johnny Rodrigues, chief commercialization officer of Xemerge. "It checks all the boxes: non-GMO, patented, human clinical data, does not change physical characteristics of the peanut."
According to the USDA, the average American eats more than six pounds of peanuts and peanut products each year, over half of that being from peanut butter.
The procedure used to develop the non-allergenic peanuts also works on wheat, which would help those who suffer from gluten allergies.