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U.S. says non-allergic peanut moves closer to commercial reality

Friday, August 29, 2014 - 02:26

U.S. researchers say they have developed a technique to remove allergens from peanuts, a food that causes allergic reactions in roughly 2.8 million Americans. Katharine Jackson reports.

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The first time Amber Chen tried Reese's Pieces, she had an anaphylactic allergic reaction to the peanuts in the candy. SOUNDBITE (English) REPORTER SAYING: "Can you eat them?" AMBER CHEN, PEANUT ALLERGY SUFFERER, SAYING: "No." REPORTER SAYING: "Why not? AMBER CHEN, PEANUT ALLERGY SUFFERER, SAYING "Because I'm allergic." Four year old Amber is one of roughly 2.8 million Americans with a potentially life-threatening allergy to peanuts. Anaphylaxis can cause difficulty breathing, swelling of the tongue, eyes or face; vomiting, and in some cases death. Amber's mom Heather Sapp knows what to watch for. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HEATHER SAPP, MOTHER OF PEANUT ALLERGY SUFFERER, SAYING: "She gets a runny nose, then she starts complaining about her tummy, all things that, you know, kids get. You wouldn't think it was anything other than just the flu. But pretty soon after that, she starts developing hives, then her face starts swelling, then she starts playing with her tongue, then she says that something is spicy and that seems to be her word, spicy." Now U.S. researchers say a safer peanut may be on the horizon. Scientists at North Carolina A&T State University reduced peanut allergens by 98 to 100 percent by breaking down the proteins that trigger anaphylaxis, Department of Agriculture food safety expert Jan Singleton explains. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JAN SINGLETON, USDA FOOD SAFETY DIVISION DIRECTOR, SAYING: "It doesn't hurt the quality or the flavor of the peanuts, so all of the good things about the peanuts remain, but the proteins that cause these allergic reactions seem to virtually disappear. I say virtually because we've seen in the current research about a 98% reduction. That's an amazing reduction." The university has signed an agreement with a Canadian firm to explore marketing hypoallergenic peanut products. But the American Peanut Council, which represents peanut growers and manufacturers, said in a statement the research has not gone far enough. Sapp said she'd still worry even if hypoallergenic peanuts hit supermarket shelves. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HEATHER SAPP, MOTHER OF PEANUT ALLERGY SUFFERER, SAYING: "One the one hand, I'm like really excited about it. I'm like - yeah science this is great - but on the other hand, I think me personally, if it is really true and really absolutely works, I would probably buy it for my own use. I don't know that I would give it to her." The USDA says the technique could one day be used to make tree nuts and wheat less allergy-inducing.

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U.S. says non-allergic peanut moves closer to commercial reality

Friday, August 29, 2014 - 02:26

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