Did you know that pecans are the only tree nuts native to the U.S.? As the world’s largest supplier of pecans, the U.S. produces, on average, 325 to 350 million pounds annually, according to the U.S. Pecan Growers Council, Tifton, Ga.; some 51 percent of global production in 2017/2018, as stated by the International Nut & Dried Fruit Council.
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Fortunately, there have not been any foodborne disease outbreaks traced to pecans, but pecan orchard conditions before and after harvest indicate there are potential food safety risks, says Achyut Adhikari, PhD, an assistant professor and extension food safety specialist at the Louisiana State University (LSU) School of Nutrition and Food Science, Baton Rouge.
Contamination of in-shell pecans and nutmeats can occur preharvest, at harvest, and during postharvest handling and processing, Dr. Adhikari points out.
For starters, during rainfall, the shucks surrounding pecans get wet along with the nut. “The nutrient-rich shucks provide a suitable environment for microbial growth,” Dr. Adhikari explains. Salmonella can survive for several weeks, making it one of the favored routes for contamination.”
About Linda L. Leake, MS
Linda L. Leake, doing business as Food Safety Ink, is a food safety consultant, registered SQF contract auditor, and award-winning freelance journalist based in Wilmington, N.C. Specializing in agriculture, food, food safety, and travel, her articles have appeared in some 89 print and online publications. Along with garnering awards for her articles and photographs, she holds the prestigious Master Writer status with American Agricultural Editors’ Association. Majoring in Dairy Science, she completed a BS in Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin and an MS in Food Safety at Michigan State University. She’s an active member of IAFP, Toxicologists Without Borders, Inc., and the National Dairy Shrine. She’s currently enrolled in the International Development Doctoral Program at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast. Reach her at Llleake@aol.com.