Risks associated with Cashews

Anacardic Acid

As previously mentioned in the item description, the most obvious and harmful risk associated with cashews is the anacardic acid that surrounds the nut in its raw form. If handled, the oil, which has a characteristic similar to that of poison ivy can cause an unpleasant irritation on the skin due to its corrosiveness. The roasting process is crucial for removing this substance and thus making them safe to be handled, sold and consumed.

Mould & Spoilage

Cashews can be highly susceptible to mould and spoilage if they are exposed to high moisture and humidity levels. Although native to tropical, humid climates, these nuts require a particular level of humidity and moisture exposure. Cashews transported in sacks, are at high risk to moisture penetration and therefore mould formation due to ‘ship sweat’. Therefore, appropriate ventilation is required to combat excessive humidity during storage and transportation. Humidity levels of around 70% and moisture levels between 8.9 and 9.2% are deemed the maximum safe levels for cashews to grow. Above these levels, mould, discolouring and rancidity are highly likely. After processing, we utilise a PRS (Positive Release System) to determine the moisture value of the nuts before shipment and make sure they are within the parameters of 3-5%. Furthermore, this PRS provides us with exact percentage values of defects, damages and spoilage of the nuts.


All nuts, including cashews can be at risk of a chemical known as aflatoxin, produced by two types of mould, aspergillus flavus and aspergillus parasiticus. These moulds, which grow in soil, are largely found in areas with humid climates, climates that the cultivation of nuts is heavily prevalent. Luckily, the cashew nut is less exposed to the dangers of aflatoxins due to the protection provided by its shell during the growing process.

Governments provide regulations on acceptable levels of aflatoxins in all foods. In the USA, the USFDA (US Food and Drug Agency) permits a maximum level of 20ppb (parts per billion). The European Union is even stricter, permitting a maximum of 4ppb to allow foods to be suitable for human consumption.

Even though cashews are less susceptible to aflatoxins, improper post-harvest handling and storage conditions such as high moisture, temperature and insect-related damage can contribute to the fungus that can produce toxins such as aflatoxin. Therefore, care in all aspects of cashew nut cultivation, handling, storage, and transportation is required to help in its prevention.


In adherence to AFI (Association of Food Industry) standards, infestation of cashew nut kernels is strictly prohibited. Infestation is regarded as exhibiting evidence of insects or mites alive or dead, as well as signs of insect-related damage. The main insect threats associated with cashews are those from ants, grain weevils and meal moths. To combat the threat of infestations, correct hygiene practices during the processing stages are compulsory. Should infestations occur, the cashew containers will require freezing.

Foreign Matter

Can include stones, dirt, glass, metal, sticks, plastic and paper. These objects are most commonly picked up during the processing stages. To eliminate the risk of contamination by foreign matter, correct control procedures are applied. Correct hygiene standards and clean working conditions contribute to minimising contamination. Furthermore, our Positive Release System is in place to provide a thorough analysis of the cashew containers after processing to make sure they are under the maximum level of 0.01%.

DEFECTS include superficial and intrinsic damage which adversely affects the appearance of the lot such as scorching, blemishes, discoloration, immature or shrivelled kernels, kernels with pitted black or brown spots, adhering testa, scrapes, flux marks, and speckles. Defects vary by grade.

The presence of kernels of a lower grade are scored as defects. SCORCHING – a discoloration due to over heating during shelling or blanching. BLEMISHES OR DISCOLORATION – spots in aggregate in excess of 3 mm on the kernels from causes other than shelling or blanching. IMMATURE – kernels are underdeveloped and do not have the characteristic shape of a cashew kernel. SLIGHTLY SHRIVELED – a slight withering of the outer surface of the kernel. SHRIVELLED – a complete withering of the kernel that distorts its characteristic shape. PITTED SPOTS – black, brown, or other colored spots in aggregate in excess of 1 mm caused by pre-harvest attack on the kernel.ADHERING TESTA – skin on the surface of the kernel measuring greater than 2 mm in diameter in aggregate. SUPERFICIAL DAMAGE – deep knife cuts on the surface of the kernel that change the characteristic shape of the nut. FLUX MARKS – black or brown marks on the surface of the kernels caused by flux dripping onto them when a tin container is sealed. SPECKLED – a brown stain which appears after removal of the testa on some kernels

source: The Association of Food Industries Inc.

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Michael Stevens

I joined Freeworld Trading in July 2008 after graduating from Edinburgh University. I initially worked in logistics before moving into trading. I am responsible for managing Almonds, Cashews, and Walnuts at Freeworld Trading. I enjoy my spare time with my daughter, playing football, swimming and messing around on DJ turntables.