Why validated heat treatment is recommended before consumption of nuts?

Dry foods, such as nuts, are assumed to be less risky for foodborne illness because they are consumed dry. However, nuts, being low-moisture foods, are often mistakenly seen as not supporting microbial growth – such as pathogenic bacteria. Some common foodborne pathogens like Salmonella and EHEC may cause serious illness even when present at low levels. Pathogen outbreaks of salmonella have been associated with the consumption of raw, untreated nuts, and/or nut products such as raw almonds, roasted peanut butter, and sesame seeds or seed products.

Pathogens are generally present in low numbers, posing a challenge even to best-in-class quality systems and mechanisms. Tracing back or identifying the root cause or source of the contamination is a constant challenge. The period between the initial contamination to the consumption and when the illness occurred ranged over multiple days to months because multiple distributors were often involved in handling products from various growers.

There are multiple sources of Salmonella and one such source of is in the orchard itself, i.e., most of the nuts harvested from the orchard may possibly contain contaminants and with a small chance that they can be spread to the edible kernels before or during processing. In some cases, water is purposefully used post-harvest for better handling some types of nuts – from removing hulls or to soften shells before cracking. Various other sources of contaminants include nuts being exposed to unclean water, and unhygienic conditions within the facility. Therefore, it is important to have a robust environmental monitoring program when you purchase raw nuts from olamnuts.com.

Recommendations on prevention and control of Salmonella and EHEC in tree nuts

Pre-harvest control measures

ofi has implemented appropriate Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) to minimize the opportunity for foodborne pathogens from leading to any contamination at the crop level. Starting at the farm level and continuing to a crop-specific assessment of risks for contamination, rigorous evaluations are undertaken to curtail these risks. All the field workers are made aware of food safety risks through regular on-site training programs. Precautions are taken in using quality water for irrigation and for application of agricultural chemicals and attempts are made to minimize animals/birds’ intrusion into the orchards

Pre-harvest control measures

ofi’s handling methods vary greatly among different nut types. Our almonds are from California, while our cashews are from Vietnam, India, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, etc. We work to reduce the post-harvest they are outside our pre-processing and/or storage facilities. Extra caution is exercised to protect the harvested nuts from rain and ensure they are not affected by insects or any pests. Large amounts of dust that occur typically in the nut hulling and shelling operations; we work to reduce hazardous substances mix with the nuts.

Water is used post-harvest for cleaning or before shelling and therefore the water quality is being checked during the post-harvest treatment of nuts. ofi has put in place a world-class food quality and safety systems including GMP and HACCP thereby emphasizing consumer safety at the heart of our operations.

What should customers who purchase from olamnuts.com be doing?

Raw nuts purchased from olamnuts.com should have final product processing - a validated treatment step should be considered. The most recommended method for reducing pathogens is the application of heat. Salmonella, EHEC, and similar pathogens are proven to be more resistant to heat when present in a dry environment. Some popular thermal processes are relatively simple to validate by using published data (e.g., for roasting, blanching, and heat treatments for almonds).

Processing facility design, process flow (i.e., separating raw materials from finished products), cleaning equipment, maintenance, cleaning, sanitation, and human hygiene should be adequately controlled to prevent any sort of contamination. Cleaning, hulling, and water sanitation programs are available and widely used. The efficacy of both cleaning & sanitation program should continuously be monitored effectively through a robust environmental monitoring program to ensure quality and to prevent contamination.