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It was expected that the Senate HELP Committee will soon reintroduce legislation for food allergen labeling. Changes negotiated by GMA and other food industry groups were:
The majority of academic research on food allergens is focused in two areas: development of analytical methods to detect trace residues of allergenic proteins, and identification of the proteins in tree nuts that cause an allergic response. The University of Florida, for instance, is pursuing development of polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies to tree nut allergens for use in testing suspected foods for allergen contamination. FARRP is similarly focused on developing assays to detect allergenic food residues that might contaminate other foods. Resulting ELISA tests are currently available for almond, egg, milk, peanut, whey, and walnut. A soy test developed by FARRP is available for experimental use only, while tests for cashews, clams, hazelnuts, pecans and sesame are currently under development.
Recombinant allergen research is being conducted on peanuts, which could be used to create vaccines that would "cure" individuals of their allergies. While some clinical research is underway for a peanut allergen vaccine, FAARP's Taylor doesn't expect the vaccine to be ready for humans for several years -- assuming that it's proven to work.
If research progresses, it will only lead to greater nut consumption and, by extension, a healthier population. The allergen issue has presented the industry with unique challenges. In time, we will hopefully see a cure for allergic reactions , perhaps some form of genetic modification that disarms the bad allergens while preserving all of the goodness.
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