ALLERGEN REDUCTION/FOOD PROCESSING: Drug-free approach to peanut allergies uses UV light

Pulsed ultraviolet (UV) light can decimate the allergens in peanuts, according to researchers at the University of Florida (UF; Gainesville, FL), who have proven the ability to reduce them by up to 90%.1 The method uses bursts of UV light containing multiple wavelengths, which changes peanut allergens so that human antibodies can’t recognize them and trigger the release of histamines. “We believe the allergen can be controlled at the processing stage, before the product even goes to the shelf,” says Wade Yang, assistant professor in UF’s food science and human nutrition department.

UV light has been proven to reduce allergens in peanut butter and peanut extracts
UV light has been proven to reduce allergens in peanut butter and peanut extracts; unpublished results demonstrate that the same approach works for whole peanuts. (Image courtesy University of Florida)

Yang proved able—for the first time—to reduce the allergenic potential of three of the most allergenic proteins in peanuts, including Ara h2, the most potent. He 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. He succeeded in reducing allergens in both peanut extract and peanut butter; preliminary, unpublished results also demonstrate that pulsed UV light can significantly reduce the allergenic potential of whole peanuts.

1. W.W. Yang et al., Food and Bioprocess Technol., doi:10.1007/s11947-011-0615-6 (2011).

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