Creating an allergy-free peanut is deceptively simple: Roast, shell and peel it, then soak it in an enzymatic solution that removes about 98 percent of the allergens within the peanut.
But the patented process, developed by researchers at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, could be life-changing for people with peanut allergies, though some scientists and organizations warn that theres still a long way to go.
The key to the peanut-cleansing treatment is alcalase, an enzyme that breaks down proteins in peanuts. Alcalase is used in some laundry detergents to remove protein-based stains like grass and blood, according to the National Centre for Biotechnology Education in the U.K. After the peanuts are roasted, shelled and peeled, theyre soaked in a solution containing alcalase, which reduces two major allergens, Ara h 1 and Ara h 2, in the peanuts.
About 3 million people in the U.S. are allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, according to nonprofit Food Allergy Research and Education. Between 1997 and 2008, the number of children with peanut allergies tripled.
Dr. Jianmei Yu, a food and nutrition scientist at North Carolina A&T, and two former North Carolina A&T faculty members started working on the treatment in 2005 and patented the ...