For the Mindlin family, living with peanut allergies is like living in a minefield. They never know when their 6-year-old daughter, Maya, might accidentally eat a trace of peanut that would put her in shock.
"It's very stressful and difficult, and adds an extra layer to everything we do that other people just don't experience," said Jill Mindlin.
That's why there is a race among researchers to find an allergy-free peanut, considered the holy grail of sorts in food science.
Researchers at North Carolina A&T State University this week say they've found a way to deactivate peanut allergens in the lab, but it still has to be tested on people.
"The farmer can go on and produce whatever they produce. … We remove the allergen through processing rather than breeding of the peanut itself," explained Mohammed Ahmedna, who works on the study.
And at the University of Florida, researchers are trying to grow a different type of peanut — a safe peanut — one without the three proteins that trigger most allergic reactions.
"If we could disarm or eliminate proteins, we could reduce the number of people who are allergic to peanuts," said researcher Mario Gallo.
And for some, it can't come soon enough.
In just five years, the number of children suffering peanut allergies in the United States has doubled to more than 600,000.
"Is it because children are getting peanuts earlier in their diet? Maybe later in their diet?" asked Dr. Scott Sicherer of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
"Maybe it's mothers eating peanuts during pregnancy, and breast-feeding, or maybe it's something about our current environment."
While labs are busy working on a new form of peanut, many of the country's leading researchers say that even if they succeed, it will likely to be several years before it can be found on store shelves.
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