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Foods -- Nuts and Seeds

Are moldy pecans safe to eat?

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No. Throw them out. Some people might take a risk and eat moldy foods. In many instances, the individual will simply not feel well after eating moldy food. However, molds on nuts (and grain products) could be a significant hazard. The molds that can grow on nuts can produce mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are highly poisonous compounds produced by molds or fungi. If one sees mold growth, there is the possibility of mycotoxins being present. Molds love moist conditions. Therefore, it is important to keep dry foods dry, particularly nuts and grain products, to prevent mold growth. One potent carcinogen for both animals and humans is aflatoxin. Aflatoxin is a mycotoxin produced by the mold strains of Asperfillus flavus and A. parasiticus. Aflatoxin appears to be stable so cooking will not destroy it. Significant amounts of aflatoxin have been found in corn, peanuts, Brazil nuts, pistachio nuts, almonds, pecans, filberts, and walnuts. Therefore, it is recommended that moldy nuts be discarded. Also, do not fee moldy foods to pets because they can get sick too! To prevent mold formation, store the nuts (in their shell or shelled) in a cold, dark, dry environment.

PREPARED BY: Angela M. Fraser, Ph.D., Associate Professor/Food Safety Specialist, NC State University in July 2004

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