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N.C. A&T food scientist develops process for allergen-free peanuts

GREENSBORO, N.C. An agricultural researcher at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University has developed a simple process to make allergen-free peanuts. The new process believed to be a first for food science could provide relief to millions of peanut allergy sufferers, and be an enormous boon to the entire peanut industry.

Doug Speight of the N.C. A&T Office of Outreach and Technology Transfer said food companies are showing a strong interest in licensing the process, which does not degrade the taste or quality of treated peanuts, and might even render them easier to process for use as a food ingredient.

Immunoassays showed 100 percent inactivation of peanut allergens in whole roasted kernels, and the processed peanuts showed no reaction in tests on human serums from severely allergic individuals. The inventor, Dr. Mohamed Ahmedna, is optimizing the process further to remove allergens from other foods.

We are extremely pleased that we were able to find such a simple solution to a vexing problem that has enormous economic and public health ramifications, both for peanut sensitive individuals, and the food industry as a whole, said Ahmedna, associate professor of food science in N.C. A&Ts School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.

Peanut and tree nut allergies are the most severe of all food allergies, affecting approximately 3 million Americans, and causing 100 150 deaths from anaphylactic shock annually and many more hospitalizations. In industrialized nations, the allergy has been rapidly increasing in children, for causes that are not entirely understood. One study showed that between 1997 and 2002, peanut allergies in children doubled in the United States. Today, an estimated one percent of all children suffer from the allergy.

Life can be stressful for families with peanut sensitive children, who must take extraordinary precautions to prevent contact with even small traces of peanut
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Contact: Laurie Gengenbach
l_gengen@ncat.edu
336-334-7048
North Carolina A&T State University
23-Jul-2007


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