GREENSBORO, N.C. — Dr. Jianmei Yu is a big fan of peanuts.
“I use peanuts in cooking, peanut butter in soup and of course, breakfast.”
Dr. Yu is also a food and nutrition researcher at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Her team is working to remove allergens from peanuts that make the popular food ingredient dangerous for millions.
“We feel this work is very important to improve the safety of peanuts and reduce people’s stress caused by the peanut allergy.”
Yu is using common food grade enzymes to remove allergens. When the peanuts are soaked in the enzyme bath, key allergens are greatly reduced.
In one human test case, the allergy power of the peanut dropped 50 to 60 percent. Yu says the food industry is keeping tabs on her work.
Parents like Casey Raymer are also curious about the work taking place at NC A&T.
“I think that work is exciting and optimistic”
Raymer’s sons are allergic to peanuts. The family takes every precaution to avoid accidental exposure.
“You look at restaurant menus differently. Every play date or birthday party comes with a disclaimer making sure parents are aware of what your child can and can’t eat.”
Dr. Yu is confident that one day less allergic peanuts will give parents like Raymer a sigh of relief.
“For example, you can break it down into smaller pieces and used in cookies or other products like peanut butter or peanut flour.”
Raymer believes less allergic peanuts could cost more, but it’s a price she is willing to pay.
“Obviously I’m more than happy to pay the extra cost for a less allergic peanut butter or the chocolate bar with less allergic peanuts”