The variety, dubbed Triple Null by the researchers, has significantly reduced amounts of the three proteins which are responsible for soy's anti-nutritional and allergenic properties.
Co-author Eliot Herman said: "Food allergy is a huge and growing problem for children. We hope this work will offer a new approach to developing low-allergen foods and help to bend down the curve of growing food allergy."
The researchers screened 16,000 varieties of soybeans before finding one that contained almost none of the three key proteins - Kunitz trypsin inhibitor, soybean agglutinin and P34.
These are considered to be ‘anti-nutritional’ because they impede digestibility and prevent absorption of certain nutrients, as well as provoking allergic reactions in some individuals.
Identical to normal soy
Lead researcher Monica Schmidt told FoodNavigator that the new variety, which has not been patented, appeared to have the same properties as normal soy in terms of texture and potential food uses.
“We believe that this soybean could be directly employed in any currently used food processing mode without modification.”
“The publication of this paper is the first opportunity we have had to make industry aware of this line so the weeks and months to come will allow us to assess interest,” she added.
Bred using conventional methods, Schmidt said that Triple Null could also be grown organically.
A common allergen
Soy is widely used in the food industry, with up to 60% of manufactured foods containing soya or soy-derived emulsifier lecithin, according to Allergy UK.
According to a 2014 meta-analysis, soy allergy affects approximately 0.4% of the population. It is more common among babies and children although many infants outgrow their allergy by age three.
Under current EU law food manufacturers are required to label 14 comon allergens– peanuts, tree nuts, soybeans, mustard, eggs, lupin, milk, fish, cereals containing gluten, sesame, celery, sulphur dioxide, molluscs and crustaceans.
Source: Journal of Plant Breeding
Article first published online: 21 April 2015, doi: 10.1111/pbr.12265
“Breeding and characterization of soybean Triple Null; a stack of recessive alleles of Kunitz Trypsin Inhibitor, Soybean Agglutinin, and P34 allergen nulls”
Authors: Monica Schmidt,, Theodore Hymowitz, Eliot Herman