In the end, the nutritious little nuggets refused to surrender their allergens, but the research yielded sensitive techniques that detect minute traces of the nuts -- potentially fatal to allergic consumers -- in seemingly nut-free processed foods.
The study, "Impact of gamma-irradiation and thermal processing on the antigenicity of almond, cashew nut and walnut proteins," is published in the current edition of the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. FSU's Shridhar Sathe, the D.K. Salunkhe Professor of Food Science, and Kenneth Roux, a professor in the department of biological science, conducted the research with assistance from graduate students Mengna Su, Yanhong Wei and Mahesh Venkatachalam, and from Susan Teuber, an associate professor at University of California-Davis.
"Globally-popular almonds, walnuts and cashews are the tree nuts most often implicated in permanent and sometimes fatal food allergies, and currently there are no de-sensitizing treatments available," said Sathe. Vulnerable individuals must scrupulously avoid all contact with the offending tree nuts, an increasingly difficult feat since they are widely used in a variety of bakery, confectionery and snack foods.
"Improper food labeling and cross-contamination during commercial processing pose serious threats to sensitive consumers while often leading to expensive food recalls," Sathe said.
The researchers had previously identified the specific tree nut proteins relevant to human allergies. They then aimed, through irradiation alone or in combination with other thermal treatments, to induce changes in the protein structures to reduce or eliminate allergenicity and antigenicity. Yet the antigenicity of the tree nut
Contact: Shridhar Sathe
Florida State University