Removing allergens from peanuts

peanutsFor one who has a granddaughter suffering from a potentially life-threatening allergy to peanuts, the recent news that scientists at North Carolina A&T State University have founds ways to reduce significantly the food’s allergens is, indeed, a welcome development.

One seems to be always at the edge, even if the child is not living with you, thinking about how dangerous the nut could be or any food concoction with peanut ingredient in it that may be accidentally eaten.

I love eating peanuts as an aperitif with beer before dinner, but when my son and his family comes over from Manila for a visit, we always make sure that peanuts, and all nuts for that matter, are kept away hidden.

My granddaughter is so conscious of her woe that she has learned to ask the food server attending if the dish ordered is free of peanut ingredients when they go to restaurants.

Like my granddaughter, those afflicted with the severe form of peanut allergies can have allergic reactions anywhere in their bodies that touch anything containing even the slightest trace of peanut residue. They immediately develop rashes.

Indeed, it is very scary to know that peanut dust carried in the air can also trigger a violent allergic reaction.

Not everyone who suffers from peanut allergies is so sensitive, but those who are can suddenly go into anaphylactic shock within minutes of exposure to peanut products.

Anaphylactic shock is a serious allergic reaction which can cause the tissues around the upper airway to swell.

“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.

Yu is talking about a reduction of peanut allergens by 98 percent to 100 percent by focusing on certain proteins that can trigger food-related anaphylaxis, a severe, whole-body allergic reaction.

The process consists of pre-treating 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 study is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture with funding through an Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant.

Hopefully, in due time peanuts or any food with peanut derivative will no longer pose a threat to the lives of so many people affected right now and can enjoy consuming any which way the nut is made and sold.

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