Did you know that nuts are not just delicious, they are good for you too? The USDA affirms the following:
- By adding nuts to a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol may help reduce the risk of heart disease
- Almonds, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts contribute to your health through their protein, dietary fiber, and unsaturated fat
So you get the maximum nutrition and most of the health benefits, the nuts you purchase must be handled safely.
- Nuts need proper storage to keep the oil that naturally resides in nuts from going rancid
- Nuts need to be carefully handled to prevent from being a source of harmful bacteria
What are the Safe Practice Standards for Handling Nuts?
First off we need to identify that bacteria is everywhere. Some bacteria is actually helpful to our health, and many have absolutely no impact on our health. Some, however, can cause severe illness and even death. Nuts are generally not a common source of harmful bacteria. We have seen in the news recently that there have been some outbreaks with regards to raw almonds, cereal, peanut butter, black pepper and sesame seeds. It’s important that refrigeration and freezing do not destroy bacteria. You cannot see, smell, taste or determine by texture if the product has harmful bacteria.
It is important to follow good hygienic practices when you are shelling and eating nuts:
- Wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling nuts
- If you are purchasing nuts in the shell, crack them in a clean area and into clean containers
- Store the cracked nut in clean, closed containers and follow the appropriate storage times and temperatures
- Washing nuts in the shell is not a recommended practice because the moisture could encourage bacteria or even mold growth
How to store nuts properly?
The length of time you can store nuts is highly dependent on the storage temperature and humidity level you are storing the nuts. Storage life is considerably lower when you store at room temperature than if you utilized the refrigerator or freezer.
- Room temperature storage encourages insect growth (something to keep in mind for backyard-harvested nuts) and causes the oils in nuts to become rancid quicker. Nuts can maintain a certain quality up to a few months at room temperature. Rancid nuts are not unsafe, however, they will have a sharp flavor and most people will find the taste unpleasant.
- Refrigerated nuts will retain their quality for a year or more between (40ºF or below) or up to 2 years in the freezer (0ºF or below). This is our Public Service Announcement that you should store nuts in a plastic container to avoid any smells like onion flavoring your nuts.
- If for some reason you wanted to store nuts you obtained from a roadside stand or your backyard at room temperature, it is recommended that you freeze the nuts first at 0ºF for at least 48 hours to kill any insects and their eggs (I know, yummy right) and prevent them from destroying your harvest. Freezing nuts isn’t required if you are planning to store the nuts in the refrigerator.
(40º F [4ºC] or colder)
(0ºF [-18ºC] or colder]