The amount of peanut butter eaten in the United States each year could wrap the Earth in a ribbon of 18-ounce jars one and one-third times, according to the National Peanut Board. A new method for removing allergens from peanuts could potentially increase the ribbon significantly.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said last week that researchers at North Carolina A&T State University have found a way to reduce peanut allergens by 98% to 100% by focusing on certain proteins that can trigger food-related anaphylaxis, a severe, whole-body allergic reaction.

“We found that treating peanuts with protein-breaking enzymes reduced allergenic proteins,” said Dr. Jianmai  Yu, a food and nutrition researcher at NC A&T’s school of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.

The treatment is effective whether peanuts are whole, broken into pieces or ground into flour, USDA said. It has also shown promise in wheat, one of the top eight food allergens in the U.S. and tree nuts.

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

“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 said.

The university has signed an agreement with Xemerge, a Toronto-based firm that commercializes emerging technologies in food and agriculture, to research the marketing potential of hypoallergenic peanut products.

“This is one of the best technologies in the food and nutrition space we have seen,” Johnny Rodrigues, chief commercialization officer of Xemerge, said on the university’s website. “It checks all the boxes: non-GMO, patented, human clinical data, does not change physical characteristics of the peanut.” “GMO” stands for “genetically modified organism.”    9/1/14


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