Pulsed UV light method aims to reduce allergens in peanuts

June 16, 2011
Aiming to make peanuts safer for people with peanut allergies, University of Florida researchers have developed a method that uses pulsed UV light to reduce allergens in peanuts by up to 90%.

Aiming to make peanuts safer for people with peanut allergies, University of Florida (UF; Gainesville, FL) researchers have developed a method that uses pulsed UV light to reduce allergens in peanuts by up to 90%.

To accomplish this, the researchers released pulsed bursts of UV light containing multiple wavelengths. The UV light pulses change peanut allergens so that human antibodies can’t recognize them and cause the release of histamines, which are responsible for allergy symptoms such as itching, rashes and wheezing.

“We believe the allergen can be controlled at the processing stage, before the product even goes to the shelf,” says Wade Yang, an assistant professor in UF’s food science and human nutrition department.

Wade Yang, an assistant professor in UF’s food science and human nutrition department, and graduate student Sandra Shriver use pulsed UV light to reduce allergens in peanuts in Yang’s laboratory in Gainesville, FL. The method has been shown to significantly reduce the allergenic potential of peanuts by up to 90%. (Image courtesy of Tyler L. Jones)With the pulsed UV light, Yang, a member of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, reduced the allergenic potential of three of the most allergenic proteins in peanuts. The reduction of Ara h2, the most potent of the three, marked the first time this has ever been achieved.

Yang confirmed the allergy reduction using a biochemical test and by exposing the proteins to serum samples from patients with peanut allergies to see if an allergic reaction occurred.

Allergens were reduced in peanut extracts and peanut butter. Preliminary, unpublished results also demonstrate that pulsed UV light can significantly reduce the allergenic potential of whole peanuts.

Dr. Shih-Wen Huang, a pediatric allergist in UF’s College of Medicine, says that epinephrine is often recommended for treating severe allergic reactions, and for milder reactions, antihistamines. And while epinephrine and antihistamines alleviate allergenic symptoms, Yang says he would like to prevent the allergy at the processing stage with pulsed UV light before it reaches humans.

Yang’s future research involves developing a one-step roasting and allergen reduction process by pulsed UV light to produce hypoallergenic whole peanuts.

The study was published this week in the journal Food and Bioprocess Technology.

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Posted by Lee Mather

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