These days, company picnics and parties are just as worrisome as they are fun. Cost and logistics top the list of concerns, but add to that the potentially deadly affects of food allergies.
Food allergies are a legitimate problem for anyone from restaurant owners to families. According to reports from the non-profit Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE),
over 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies, and, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, over 400,000 of them are children.
A new food ingredient made from peanut flour and cranberry extracts is being tested by scientists with the NC State University Plants for Human Health Institute (PHHI) at the NC Research Campus as a new option to treat food allergies, especially peanut allergens.
Led by PHHI Director Mary Ann Lila, PhD, researchers bound peanut proteins with polyphenols from plants like blackcurrant, cinnamon, cranberry and green tea – all of which seemed to make the peanut proteins less allergenic in lab tests. Polyphenols are natural health-promoting chemicals found in fruits and vegetables.
“Of the 170 foods that cause allergic reactions, peanuts can be the most dangerous,” said Lila. “We feel confident that the polyphenolic plant compounds make the peanut flour more hypoallergenic by masking or changing the allergy-inducing proteins, which is very promising.”
The cranberry compounds-peanut flour combination is the only one that has gone to animal trials so far. Researchers from UNC-Chapel Hill and the US Department of Agriculture contributed to the research. The results were published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in April 2014.
“This is the kind of practical research that distinguishes the NCRC,” said Lynne Scott Safrit, president of Castle & Cooke, North Carolina, the developer of the NCRC. “This product is the type of approach to dealing with a life-threatening healthcare issue that can help lower costs for individuals and companies by providing a very affordable and accessible solution to a problem that affects so many people, especially children.”
Lila and her team will expand their work to create hypoallergenic food ingredients for other allergy-causing foods, like eggs, milk and soy, as soon as funding is available. Those findings will no doubt provide additional solutions to the problem of food allergies, making picnics, dining out and every meal safer for anyone who suffers from food allergies