Allergy-Free, Non-GMO Peanuts Are Coming Soon to a Store Near You
A former colleague of mine used to leave her desk three, maybe four times a week to rinse her mouth out with Listerine. Not that I was keeping tabs, but she would comically announce her plan to the room, shuffle away, and return all minty-breathed. I always thought it was because she was obsessive about dental hygiene, but it was an entirely different obsession that drove her habit: peanuts.
She loved peanut butter like it was nobody’s business, but her boyfriend—like more than 3 million Americans—had severe nut allergies. The only way she could avoid going Rogue from X-Men on him was to take extensive, alcohol-based precautions.
She may soon be saving loads of money on mouthwash, however, because scientists at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University have developed a way to process peanuts that reduces allergens by a reported 98 percent. The effectiveness was tested in human clinical trials using skin prick tests at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
So, Why Should You Care? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies cause more than 300,000 ambulatory visits to hospitals by children under 18 each year, amounting to more than $25 billion in health care costs. Not only could these new hypoallergenic peanuts save a massive amount of money, but they could also prevent the 150 to 200 annual deaths attributed to peanut allergies.
The newfangled peanuts start out as any allergy-inducing peanut might; the technology is non-GMO and is conducted postharvest. According to Food Safety News, the process works by soaking roasted, shelled peanuts in an enzymatic solution commonly used in food processing that neutralizes the allergen-causing compounds. According to the researchers, it doesn’t change the taste at all.
The patented process was developed by Jianmei Yu, a researcher at North Carolina A&T, but the technology is licensed to Canadian ag-tech company Xemerge, which is working to commercialize the process and will eventually bring hypoallergenic peanut products to market.
There is no definitive timetable for when that will happen and kids can once again bring peanut butter–and–jelly sandwiches to school without putting others at risk, but according to North Carolina A&T Vice Chancellor Wayne Szafranski, “They are going to be very aggressive at approaching manufacturers.”