Hypoallergenic peanuts in the works

Scientists may have figured out how to remove the allergens from peanuts.

Nutrageous news for the four million Americans who are allergic to the legumes: nutless peanuts are in the works. Scientists have developed a process that reduces peanut allergens by 98 percent in peanuts, reports Reuters.

Researchers from North Carolina’s Agricultural and Technical State University have developed a patented process that uses food-grade enzymes to reduce the allergens. No genetic modification is involved. The de-shelled, roasted nuts soak away their allergens in a bath of enzymes.

The process reduces two key peanut allergy triggers called Ara h 1 and Ara h 2. It reduces Ara h 1 to undetectable levels, and Ara h 2 by up to 98 percent. Human skin-prick trials were conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to measure the effectiveness of the process.

The nuts look and taste like regular peanuts, according to Reuters. "Treated peanuts can be used as whole peanuts, in pieces or as flour to make foods containing peanuts safer for many people who are allergic," lead researcher Jianmei Yu said in a statement.

The University recently signed an exclusive licensing agreement for the process with Xemerge, a Toronto-based firm commercializing emerging technologies in food and agriculture.

Researchers gave no indication of how long allergic Americans might have to wait before they might be able to enjoy a PB&J without an epi-pen. In the meantime, the popularity of special diets that are free from certain ingredients continues to grow.

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