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Researcher develops allergy-free peanuts

University claims allergen in specially treated peanuts are completely inactivated, which could make life easier for people with the dangerous allergy.

People with life-threatening allergies to peanuts might be able to rest easy at their friendly neighborhood Thai restaurants soon, if research announced this week proves true.

A release from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University says researcher Mohamed Ahmedna has developed whole, roasted peanuts in which the allergen is completely inactivated and that serum from people with severe peanut allergies did not react to the processed peanuts at all. The university paper does not explain the process at all. However, it claims the technique inactivates peanut allergens without degrading the taste or quality of treated peanuts.

Between 1.5 million and 3 million Americans have a peanut allergy (the number varies widely among different studies), and peanuts account for 80 percent of fatal or near-fatal allergic reactions each year, according to the Mayo Clinic. And the number of people with peanut and tree nut allergies has increased dramatically in recent years. Peanut allergies can be particularly dangerous because food in restaurants and manufacturing plants often comes into contact with equipment contaminated with traces of peanut oil.

The university is looking for a way to commercialize the allergy-free peanuts, which could be very good news for peanut-allergic people, many of whom have to cautiously inspect package labels and inquire about the use of peanut oil in restaurant kitchens.