New, low-allergen soybean developed

"Autumn": Dried Soybeans Backlit in FieldThose allergic to soy may now have a new alternative thanks to a group of researchers who have created a low-allergen variety of the food. This variety, named Triple Null, has reduced amounts of the three proteins that are responsible for soy’s allergic properties.

According to an article, this discovery comes after more than a decade-long effort by scientists, which first began after co-author of the study, Eliot Herman, made headlines when he and his colleagues addressed P34 as the soybean’s key allergen, and genetically engineered it out of the crop.

Although that new soybean may have been less likely to cause allergic reactions, testing was impeded by its transgenic production especially in key applications such as infant formula, the article states. To circumvent the issue, the scientists set out to create a similar soybean using conventional breeding methods, which they accomplished earlier this month with Triple Null.

“Food allergy is a huge and growing problem for our children,” Herman said in another article. “We hope this work will offer a new approach to developing low-allergen foods and help to bend down the curve of growing food allergy.”

Soybean allergy is one of the more common food allergies, especially among babies and children. Approximately 0.4% of children are allergic to soy, but outgrown the allergy by the time they reach three-years-old. If the allergy lasts longer than that, research indicates that the majority of children with soy allergy will outgrow the allergy by the age of 10.

As stated in the article, Triple Null appears to have the same properties as normal soy in terms of texture and potential food uses. According to lead researcher, Monica Schmidt, this could mean the low-allergen version could be directly employed in any currently used food processing mode without modification.

In the United States, soybeans alone are not a major food in the diet, but are widely used in processed food products. Because of this, eliminating all those foods can result in an unbalanced diet.

The federal Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) and European Food Law requires that all packaged food products sold in the U.S. and Europe that contain soy have it listed on the label.

Along with added benefits for those who are allergic, the new version also has less anti-nutritional properties, which can impede digestibility and prevent absorption of certain nutrients.  This also has applications for livestock and agriculture, as soybean is the primary global input of vegetable protein for animal feed and aquaculture.

Before soybean is used in feed, it must undergo a heating process to eliminate anti-nutritional proteins that the scientists eliminated in the new variety. This provides opportunities for cost savings, the article states.

“At the current rate, we’ll have to more than double the amount of animal feed by the year 2050,” Herman said in the article. “This means that several hundred million more tons of soybeans will need to be processed before it can be fed to animals,” he added.

By preemptively knocking out the anti-nutritional components of soybean, the researchers hope Triple Null can eliminate the need for extra processing and make creation of animal feed more efficient, potentially developing a raw soybean as animal feed.

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