North Carolina A&T low-allergy peanuts closer to market

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- A deal announced Tuesday could help move low-allergy peanuts from the labs of North Carolina A&T State University to you.

The school has partnered with Xemerge, a Canadian company that will open up offices on campus to sell the exclusive process to food companies who could produce low-allergy peanuts for the mass consumption.

“Although we’ve developed the process it needs to be scaled up,” said Walt Zifranski, a spokesman for North Carolina A&T State University. “We weren't willing at this point to invest the money to scale up; Xemerge is more than willing to do that.”

The process is protected by a U. S. patent. It involves soaking roasted peanuts in a food enzyme that doesn’t change the taste or texture of the nut but does reduce two key allergens to microscopic levels.

“This should allow, especially children, a little more freedom,” said Zifranski. “For school systems it could change what they can cook with, what they prepare in their kitchens and what they can serve to students.”

Right now, there is a healthy fear of peanut allergies even if statistics show that about 1 percent of the population is affected.

Some daycare providers that ban peanuts and peanut butter snacks in classrooms with an allergy sufferer aren’t sure parents are ready to test the product out.

“You just can't be too careful with children's lives and that’s an allergy where they can stop breathing in a matter of minutes so we're going to be extra cautious about that,” said Teri Smith with the Early Childhood Center in Greensboro.

Zifranski couldn’t pinpoint a timetable for sales or potential distribution of peanuts using the NCA&T method of reducing allergens.