Hypoallergenic peanuts may have moved one step closer to reality.
The stakes are high. Peanuts cause serious allergic reactions in about 1 percent of the U.S. population, equal to about 2.8 million people.
Researchers at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University have recently developed a process that reduces allergens in peanuts by 98 percent.
"Hypoallergenic peanuts, peanut butter, and other peanut products are a step closer to grocery stores with the signing of an exclusive licensing agreement for the patented process that reduces allergens in peanuts by 98 percent," according to a news release from the school.
The effectiveness of the process was demonstrated in human clinical trials at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, using skin-prick tests, according to the university.
It’s not the only attempt at such a product, and there’s strong interest. Studies show the number of children living with a peanut allergy has tripled between 1997 and 2008, and for reasons not well understood. Highly sensitive children and adults can develop anaphylaxis, a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction, in as little as a few seconds from ingesting extremely small amounts.
It makes this area of research exciting — and also gives hope to many living with severe peanut allergies. But many believe it’s too early to hail this latest development as a success and wonder whether a truly hypoallergenic peanut is possible.