Researchers develop hypoallergenic peanut

Peanuts_wShells_blogThose with an allergy to peanuts may soon know what it’s like to have peanut butter stuck to the roof of their mouths, and choose between creamy and the vastly underrated crunchy peanut butter varieties.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that researchers at North Carolina A&T University (NC A&T) have developed a hypoallergenic peanut. Based on the discovery, NC A&T has signed an agreement with a company to research the marketing potential of hypoallergenic peanut products and get them on store shelves in the near future.

According to the USDA, Dr. Jianmae Yu, a food and nutrition researcher at NC A&T’s School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, and her team found a way to treat peanuts and reduce their allergens by 98 to 100%. The treatment is effective whether peanuts are whole, broken into pieces, or ground into flour. Their research, which has proven effective in peanuts and shows promise in wheat, also has the potential to reduce foodborne allergens in tree nuts.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Medicine performed skin prick tests to validate the research results on human test subjects, said the USDA.

In the article, Dr. Yu explained the process her team used to develop the non-allergenic peanuts: Peanut allergies are triggered by proteins, some of which are more powerful than others, she said. “Our research focused on reducing these allergenic proteins. We found that treating peanuts with protein-breaking enzymes reduced allergenic proteins.”

The process consists of pretreating shelled and skinless peanuts with a food-grade enzyme. This post-harvest process does not change the peanut’s shape or cause lipid oxidation – a key consideration when determining a product’s shelf life, the USDA said.

“This research is also important because peanuts can be a valuable addition to a healthy diet,” said Dr. Jan Singleton, registered dietitian nutritionist and director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Division of Food Safety, as reported by the USDA.

Peanuts are enriched with many healthful nutrients, including vitamin E. Peanuts also contain riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates as well as minerals like copper, manganese, potassium, calcium, Iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium.

The USDA said the Dr. Yu has now turned her focus on another foodborne allergen — wheat.

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