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Peanuts - now safe for everyone!
July 30, 2007 1:29 PM   Subscribe

N.C. A&T food scientist develops process for allergen-free peanuts. 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.The inventor, Dr. Mohamed Ahmedna, is optimizing the process further to remove allergens from other foods.
posted by billysumday (34 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
The scientifical article is here, although most people won't be able to read more than the abstract. It looks like the process is incredibly simple.
posted by nowonmai at 1:45 PM on July 30, 2007


Some way, somehow, Dr. Ahmedna's allergen-free peanuts are going to cause the downfall of civilization. I just know it.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:48 PM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Cool, though I wonder if they can make them a different color so as not to cause confusion...like if allergy-free peanuts get mixed in with the allergy-causing peanuts somehow...
posted by troybob at 1:49 PM on July 30, 2007


I can see the labels now:

Warning: May contain allergy-causing peanuts.
posted by bondcliff at 2:02 PM on July 30, 2007


Won't folks simply develop allergies against other parts of peanuts?
posted by progosk at 2:06 PM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


vice-versa, I mean (though it would be pretty wild of people not allergic to peanuts are actually allergic to the non-allergic peanuts)
posted by troybob at 2:07 PM on July 30, 2007


Wow. That is fricking amazing. Someday I may be able to send my kids to school with PB&J sandwiches again.
posted by GuyZero at 2:07 PM on July 30, 2007


Cool, though I wonder if they can make them a different color so as not to cause confusion...like if allergy-free peanuts get mixed in with the allergy-causing peanuts somehow...


I think the point is that after further testing, that this would be a blanket policy for all peanut farmers, worldwide. (thereby alleviating the tedious record keeping, mishaps, and airborne peanut "dust" that circulates on planes, schools, etc. Though, I'd be hesitant to buy and candy bars from China...
posted by Debaser626 at 2:07 PM on July 30, 2007


(Peanut farmers at least those large enough to contribute to food companieseverywhere would be willing to do this for financial reasons. Simple process to remove allergens=$$$$$$$$) Of course, then we just have to wait for the Al Qaeda Peanut crisis of 2010
posted by Debaser626 at 2:09 PM on July 30, 2007


Nowonmai's linked paper is about degradation of aflatoxins, a fungal toxin that's a food contaminant, not an intrinsic peanut antigen. Unfortunately, the research mentioned here doesn't seem to have been published yet, at least as far as I can see from database searches.

Anyways, if I had peanut allergy, I sure as hell would not want to eat this product. Peanut allergies are notorious for being both minutely sensitive and extremely vigorous: recall the various stories about sufferers who went into anaphylaxis after inhaling minute quantities of dust. Even if it works as advertised and destroys any processing error that left any amount of antigen in the peanut could mean a trip to the emergency room or worse. That said, I'm also suspicious of any claim to produce 100% inactivation of anything, especially by a chemical process mild enough to keep peanut quality intact. Judgment on that front will have to wait until he publishes his results.
posted by monocyte at 2:10 PM on July 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Ergh... ...and destroys the antigen completely...
posted by monocyte at 2:11 PM on July 30, 2007


Someday I may be able to send my kids to school with PB&J sandwiches again.

I strongly recommend sunflower butter as a kid-friendly alternative.
posted by davejay at 2:13 PM on July 30, 2007


Have people always had peanut allergies? Seems like this has become a lot more common in recent years.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:14 PM on July 30, 2007


As a person with a life-long peanut allergy I would be concerned that this process could really do what was advertised, and I'd probably keep with my peanut avoiding behavior which is now pretty much second nature. Not going to rush out and buy a big tub 'o Skippy. That said, having had the occasional (fortunately) inadvertant exposure--if peanuts could be rendered even a little less harmful to me, I'd be happy.
posted by agatha_magatha at 2:36 PM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


But the allergens are the tastiest part!
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:37 PM on July 30, 2007


Peanut allergies are notorious for being both minutely sensitive and extremely vigorous:

Yup--this better be tested and tested and tested to be sure it's safe. And then tested some more.

People die from peanut allergies all the time, even without eating things that have peanuts in them. All candy mfrs have warned about the machines used for even non-peanut foods for years now.
posted by amberglow at 2:43 PM on July 30, 2007


I wonder about the consolidation of genotypes(?)/strains of food too--could that minimizing have affected allergy rates? (we have fewer strains of corns and many if not most foods grown now, compared to pre-industrial farming days)
posted by amberglow at 2:47 PM on July 30, 2007


I strongly recommend sunflower butter as a kid-friendly alternative.

We actually use soynut butter for the days there isn't something more exciting to send for lunch. Not as much protien as PB though. I'll have to look for sunflower seed butter.
posted by GuyZero at 2:47 PM on July 30, 2007


Oops, my bad. I can't read. That's Mondays for you. Thanks for the correction, monocyte.
There are some news reports from a conference in 2005, where a method involving a 24h fermentation (of peanut flour, not whole nuts) was described: "Mohamed Ahmedna and his colleague Jianmei Yu have found that by fermenting peanut flour -- widely used in the food industry -- with a fungus, the amount of the main allergy-triggering protein Ara h1 could be reduced by 70% and the secondary allergy trigger, Ara h2, reduced by 60%.
Yu says she is not sure how the fungus degrades the proteins, but the process doesn't appear to alter the flavour or baking properties of the treated peanut flour, she says.
"
Since nuts are allergenic in homeopathic quantities, this looks pretty much useless. The new refinements hinted at in the posted article therefore sound pretty impressive!
posted by nowonmai at 2:58 PM on July 30, 2007


I'd much rather a process for allergy-free people.

Whether the peanut allergy is genetic or environmental, trying to encourage it this way isn't good for anyone. If we keep this up, Americans won't be able to leave the country for fear of encountering deadly real food.

The one exception is that I would encourage the development of a deadly corn allergy, just because it would be funny to watch the whole government and food industry scramble to deal with that.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:31 PM on July 30, 2007


Some way, somehow, Dr. Ahmedna's allergen-free peanuts are going to cause the downfall of civilization. I just know it.

Peanut allergies are the only thing keeping the zombies at bay... we're doomed.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:38 PM on July 30, 2007


... airborne peanut "dust" that circulates on planes, schools, etc. ...

George Washington Carver swept here?
posted by rob511 at 3:57 PM on July 30, 2007


I'd much rather a process for allergy-free people.
Hookworms! (previously)
posted by hattifattener at 4:23 PM on July 30, 2007


amberglow writes "(we have fewer strains of corns and many if not most foods grown now, compared to pre-industrial farming days)"

Globally yes. On a community level there is probably more variation. Pre-industrial people probably ate a very limited variety of grains, essentially whatever grew within a hundred miles if that.
posted by Mitheral at 4:33 PM on July 30, 2007


even tho our diets are so full of processed and non-local foods, Mitheral?
posted by amberglow at 4:44 PM on July 30, 2007


That's what I was getting at, your typical first world consumer is eating stuff from all over. So even though global diversity of food plants is down we probably see more variety than your typical pre industrial subsistence farmer. Simply because we aren't limited to what ever the local farmers are able to grow depending on the local microclimate, soil composition and husbandry practises.

The local big box super market has at least half a dozen varieties of rice, more varieties of flour from wheat/rye/etc., and a few types of corn for example.
posted by Mitheral at 6:23 PM on July 30, 2007


I've been curious for a while what peanut allergy sufferers in Thailand do. Anybody know? It's one thing to avoid nuts in a western diet and another altogether in a nut oil cooking culture.
posted by srboisvert at 4:13 AM on July 31, 2007


Looks like someone didn't read the link:

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.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:30 AM on July 31, 2007


I'd always heard that oversensitive allergies were caused by lack of exposure to 'real' toxins and 'real' pathogens. Perhaps children are simply to clean these days.
posted by delmoi at 7:03 AM on July 31, 2007


I've only heard that about resistance to colds and viruses, delmoi--never about food allergies.
posted by amberglow at 10:25 AM on July 31, 2007


I've been curious for a while what peanut allergy sufferers in Thailand do. Anybody know?
A quick Google suggests that the incidence of peanut allergy is vanishingly low in these places, although I didn't immediately see an authoritative enough source to cite here. Presumably a tiny minotity of sensitive kids die young. There is ongoing research into whether peanuts in the diets of mothers, either during pregnancy or lactation, can prevent allergies.
posted by nowonmai at 2:51 PM on July 31, 2007


you'd think that populations in places that use peanut oil, etc, extensively, long ago selected for those who could survive it, no? No one else lived to adulthood to reproduce, probably, and that's why far far fewer people are around now with the allergies in those places.
posted by amberglow at 7:49 AM on August 1, 2007


Peanut oil does not contain the allergens if it is sufficiently pure oil. The allergens are in the proteins.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:51 AM on August 1, 2007


oh.
posted by amberglow at 2:25 PM on August 1, 2007


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