London, June 25 (Reuters): Scientists in the US have discovered how to produce peanuts which do not trigger life-threatening allergic reactions — but they may not taste as good.
Many of the proteins and sugars that give roasted peanuts their flavour also cause the reactions, so taste may have to be sacrificed for safety.
“It will be a trade-off,” Si-Yin Chung, of the US department of Agriculture’s Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, told New Scientist magazine today.
People allergic to peanuts must be very careful. Eating the wrong food can cause life-threatening anaphylactic shock, which kills about 10 people with a food allergy each year in Britain and around 100 in the US.
Peanut allergy usually begins early in life and rarely goes away. Severe allergic reactions include swelling of the lips and throat, difficulty breathing and unconsciousness. If an attack occurs, emergency medical attention is needed.
Scientists suspect the allergy may be triggered by early exposure to peanut proteins through the mother eating peanuts during pregnancy, through breastfeeding, or if the child is given peanut products early in life.
The researchers discovered that during the three processes that give roasted peanuts their flavour — maturation, curing and roasting — more compounds that make the nuts allergenic are created.
”But Chung is hopeful that modifications to processing could minimise the allergenicity of roasted peanuts while keeping most of the taste,” the magazine added.