New research is being conducted into ways to treat whole cashew nuts to remove allergen risk. Researchers presented their findings and continued avenues of exploration at the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco.

Currently, the only widely-accepted practice for preventing nut allergy reaction is avoidance. The only way known to remove allergens completely is through harsh chemical processes and, often, they do not leave the nut whole.

Instead, researchers lead by Chris Mattison, Ph.D. at the Agricultural Research Service branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The team is working with compounds that are generally regarded as safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration and thus can be used in food preparation without restriction.

“We found that the GRAS compound sodium sulfite can effectively disrupt the structure of a couple of the cashew allergens,” Mattison says. “And we’ve done a couple of different tests to show we reduced IgE binding to the proteins when they’ve been treated with sodium sulfite.”

The researchers will begin testing on whole nuts and test those in the lab to see the outcome before moving on to controlled consumption tests.

Similar research has been conducted on Peanuts with some success.

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