From harvest to consumption, your favorite nut isn’t just packaged and shipped to stores. Rather, it goes through an intricate production process to ensure there are no unwanted surprises in your snack.
Following several nationwide salmonella outbreaks linked to nuts back in the early 2000s, the Food and Drug Administration now requires that peanut and tree nut shellers, hullers, processors and manufacturers comply with HACCP requirements. It falls under the Food Safety Modernization Act, which regulates the way foods are grown, harvested and processed, shifting focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.
Let’s take almonds for example, once they are collected from orchards, they are delivered to the huller/sheller who cracks and cleans the almonds. From there they are delivered to the handler, typically at a separate location, who processes the crop for the market.
The hulling process involves removing the debris picked up along with the almonds and striping away the outer hull that encases the shell. The almonds then move to the sheller, which separates the shell from the nut.
Finally, the handler pasteurizes the almonds before shipping to reduce the level of potential contamination. There are several treatment processes applied that do not affect the quality, flavor and nutritional value of the nut.
Some popular pasteurization processes include:
- Oil roasting: Kernels are roasted while submerged in hot oil tank to obtain a crunchy, roasted flavor
- Dry roasting: Heat alone is applied to kernels without the use of oil or water
- Blanching: Kernels are submerged in boiling water for a minute, then cooled rapidly
- Steam processing: A short burst of steam treats the surface of the nutmeat only
- Propylene oxide: A fumigation surface treatment that rapidly dissipates after treatment
To validate that the pasteurization process was carried out correctly, data loggers are used to confirm that proper temperatures are maintained throughout the pasteurization cycle. Food safety experts advise verifying the temperature at the coldest spot of the process and taking 10 readings of equal time intervals during the entirety of the cycle. With the ability to withstand high temperatures while providing continuous monitoring, data loggers for nut processing are the ideal solution to supply the scientific data needed to prove compliance to food safety regulations.