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Characteristics of the peanut chain in Europe – Implications for peanut allergyBackground. Peanuts are one of the main food allergens, occasionally responsible for life-threatening reactions. Thus, many studies have tried to find a connection between peanut allergy prevalence and processes in the peanut chain that may contribute to the peanut allergenicity. To inform this discussion, this paper outlines experiences in peanut cultivation, trade and processing in Europe, focusing on four European countries with different peanut experiences (Poland, Bulgaria, Spain and the UK). Material and method. Results here are based on documentary analysis and semi-structured, face-to-face interviews with 32 experts involved in various stages of the peanut chain, including peanut farmers, processors, traders, food technologists and manufacturers. Results. A common peanut chain diagram has been drawn considering shelled and in-shell peanuts. The analysis of each stage of peanut processing has been made in accordance with this peanut chain schema. Thermal and mechanical processes are discussed alongside the resultant end peanut products available for European consumers. The paper also analyses the main trends of peanut trade in Europe. The results suggest that the majority of peanut products in Europe are roasted, implying enhanced exposure of the population to more allergenic peanuts. Conclusion. The presented schema and related discussion bring together diverse aspects of peanut production, trade and processing. The main factor associated with the increased allergenicity of peanuts appears to be high temperature roasting. Frying and boiling are also thermal processes, but fried and boiled peanuts have been associated with reduce peanut allergenicity. Neither country of origin nor cultivar type appear to be related to differential peanut allergenicity. More research is needed as regards the impact of various additives, such as chocolate (which is also considered an allergen) on the allergenicity of peanut products. The use of peanuts in non-food products also needs more investigation.
Peanut exposure during pregnancy, breastfeeding and complementary feeding: perceptions of practices in four countriesFood allergy is an increasing problem worldwide. Allergy to peanuts is a particular concern, given that this is rarely outgrown and may be associated with life-threatening anaphylaxis. However, it is unclear what factors are responsible for a perceived increase in prevalence rates. One matter on which scientists agree, however, is that exposure to peanuts early in life is significant – although whether early exposure protects or sensitizes to allergy is unclear. There is no significant research that currently records differences in early life exposure either within or between populations. This exploratory study makes a first step in this direction using focus groups conducted in four countries with disparate ‘peanut experiences’ to characterize early exposure in these. The ultimate aim is to help in the development of a survey instrument to attain nationally representative samples of consumers and hence to use the results from this to compare with allergy prevalence data collected in other parts of the European Union-funded ‘EuroPrevall’ project. The results in this study not only reveal considerable similarities across countries (e.g. in terms of lack of knowledge of guidelines; lack of changes in feeding behaviour during/after pregnancy, feelings that diet variety in children is important) but also one or two interesting and potentially important differences, such as increased consumption in Bulgarian (and some Spanish) breastfeeding mothers because of the ability of peanuts to facilitate lactation. Study limitations and future study intentions are also discussed.