AFRI in ACTION: The PB&J is Poised for a Comeback

The PB&J is Poised for a Comeback1More than a decade ago, the peanut butter and jelly sandwich was a staple of school children’s lunches. The J.M. Smucker Company estimated that the average young person ate 1,500 PB&Js before graduating high school.

Today, concerns about food allergies have stunted this sandwich. With approximately 2.8 million Americans suffering from peanut allergies and the number of allergic children tripling over the past decade, many families and schools have eliminated the PB&J from the lunch menu.

Researchers at North Carolina A&T University have found a way to improve this situation. Working under an AFRI grant, the scientists identified an enzyme that can neutralize the protein triggering allergic reactions. They devised a process that removes 98 percent of the allergens without altering the peanut’s flavor, color, and nutritional content. In follow-up skin prick tests conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill , the technique showed a reduction in allergic reactions.

Preliminary research suggests that this approach may also be applied to reducing allergic reactions to wheat, one of most important grains in the American diet. The process could also be used for immunotherapy and by food companies looking to minimize cross-contamination risks as products pass through their facilities. The new process will allow parents and schools to add a healthy option and introduce the PB&J to a new generation.