North Carolina A&T State University Reducing Allergens in Peanuts

Nearly three million children and adults in the U.S. suffer from peanut allergies and their severe medical consequences. Most consumer food products identify if they have been produced in a facility that handles peanuts. School districts have banned peanut products from all facilities to avoid the risk of an allergic student reacting to a stray peanut. Parents must be continually vigilant to keep their children safe.

Dr. Jianmei Yu and her colleagues at N.C. A&T State University developed a natural solution to this problem using an enzyme produced by a common bacterium that is already permitted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in food production. Dr. Yu’s lab first created a process that applies the enzyme solution to roasted peanuts and removes 98 percent of the proteins generating allergic reactions. N.C. A&T patented the process and leased it to a private company for use in commercial production.

Several of my colleagues have peanut allergies that are so bad, when they shake hands they have to ask if you ate peanuts. Maybe one day, because of this research, they won’t even need EpiPens.

– Dr. Jianmei Yu

Dr. Yu’s lab at N.C. A&T then developed a process to treat raw peanuts that eliminated similar levels of allergens. The enzyme is the key in both applications. It finds a molecular path to all parts of the peanut to eliminate almost all of the allergic potential. The patent is pending for this second technique.

The end goal is to make sure the peanut—an important component of many food products—can be removed from the list of possible health threats.

Retaking The Field Volume 2 “Retaking the Field: Strengthening the Science of Farm and Food Production” is a collaborative report from eleven universities and the SoAR Foundation. The report — the second in SoAR’s series — shows how scientists are solving some of the thorniest questions in food production and highlights research breakthroughs funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). It is part of SoAR’s broader education and advocacy to encourage additional federal support for food and agricultural research. View The Issue
Retaking the Field Volume 2: Strengthening the Science of Farm and Food Production Click to download report

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