Nuts and dried fruits
Nuts (tree nuts and peanuts) are nutrient dense foods with complex matrices rich
in unsaturated fatty and other bioactive compounds: high-quality vegetable protein, fibre, minerals, tocopherols, phytosterols, and phenolic compounds. This
composition has been linked to beneficially impact health outcomes.
Dried fruits are fruits from which water is removed to prevent microbial growth. They have an appealing taste, are highly nutritious and can be stored for a long time.
Over the last decade, global tree nut production followed an upward trajectory and reached over 5.1 M MT in season 2021/2022. In this period, the world production of peanuts reached 50 M MT. Almonds and walnuts accounted for 32% and 19% of global 2021/2022 production, respectively, followed by cashews (17%), pistachios (15%), and hazelnuts (11%). Pecans, macadamias, pine nuts, and Brazil nuts added up to the remaining 6%.
In the same period 2021/2022 the world dried fruit production has also shown a positive trend reaching more than 3 M MT. Dried grapes (raisins, Sultanas, and currants) continued to be the most produced dried fruit by volume, over 1.3 M MT (43%), Table dates (36%), Prunes (6%), dried apricots (5%), sweetened dried cranberries (5%), and figs (5%) accounted for the remaining 21%.
Europe is the world’s leading consumer of tree nuts although only Spain is one of the countries included in the worldwide tree nuts producing countries ranking with 95000 MT far from the leaders US, Turkey and China. In the case of dried fruits, any of the EU countries are included in this ranking that it’s led by the US, Turkey and Iran. The leader of consumption of dried fruits is the Middle East (32%) followed by Europe 23%.
Types of Nuts and dried fruits
- Tree nut (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, hazelnuts, pistachios, pecans, macadamias, pine nuts, Brazil nuts and chestnuts)
- Dried Beans (peanuts, soybeans, chickpeas, peas, etc.)
- Dried grapes (raisins, sultanas and currants)
- Dried fruits (dates, prunes, dried apricots, sweetened dried cranberries and dried figs)
Safety and Quality of nuts and dried fruits
The main challenge of this category in terms of Food safety is the presence of mycotoxins because nuts are suitable substrates for fungal growth if conditions are appropriate. Aflatoxins are the main concern in nuts, especially peanuts and pistachio nuts.
Dried fruits are susceptible to contamination and rancidity spoilage if they come in contact with moisture so proper packaging protocols need to be followed to ensure food safety and quality. Additionally, certain dried fruits and nuts can cause allergic reactions, so it’s key the importance of the proper handling and labelling of these products.
Salmonella is one of the microbiological hazards in almonds. Salmonellosis outbreaks from consumption of raw almonds in 2001 led to regulations that require mandatory treatment of almonds sold in North America to give a minimum 5-log reduction of Salmonella spp. to prevent atypical outbreaks. Assure a proper Pasteurisation Program to assure the control of this hazard is key to guarantee Food Safety.
Difficulties in reliability reducing levels of microbial hazards on nuts and nut products without unduly affecting their quality, emphasis in the industry
should be placed on preventing contamination during harvesting and processing
Regulatory Framework of nuts and dried fruit
Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs
Regulation 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers
Regulation (EC) No 2073/2005 microbiological criteria for foodstuffs
Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 food additives (sweeteners, colourants,…)
Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 contaminants in foodstuffs
Countries’ regulations are in place in most of the EU countries.