From salmonella, toxic mold to potentially fatal allergens, the danger of peanuts have some consumers looking toward organic peanuts as a safer solution to conventional, non-organic brands.
It’s true that organic peanuts share the benefit of other organic foods by being grown without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. But all peanuts, organic or not, have the potential to become contaminated as they make their way from the field to the market.
How Peanuts Are Grown
Almost all non-organic peanuts grown in the U.S. come from southeastern states, where the warm temperatures are friendly to peanut plants. The warm and humid conditions in the “peanut belt” also provide a perfect environment for mold and other mycotoxins to flourish.
Peanut plants are especially susceptible to Aspergillus flavos, a dangerous mold which carries the cancer-causing mycotoxin Aflatoxin. Aspergillus flavos is especially scary because of its resistance to pesticides.
To minimize crop contamination by Aspergillus flavos and other molds, most organic peanuts are grown in the arid climates of New Mexico and Arizona. Organic peanut growers use innovative soil management techniques and aggressive crop rotation to keep the soil and peanut plants healthy.
From Field to Market
Even after harvesting, peanuts are highly susceptible to contamination through improper handling, processing and storage. Once exposed, peanuts and peanut products can harbor mold, salmonella, e-coli or other organisms which can thrive as they make their way from the processing plant to store shelves.
Here are some tips to help you make the safest choices when buying peanut products:
- Check “sell-by” dates on all peanut products; this is especially important for organic products which don’t contain conventional preservatives.
- Avoid “make your own” peanut butter grinders, an ideal home for bacteria.
- No peanuts are safe for those with peanut allergies. Check all products you buy to be sure they don’t contain peanut-related ingredients.
Organic peanuts products, chemical-free and grown in safer conditions, are a smarter choice overall. Just be sure to refrigerate all peanuts products; this goes for both organic and non-organic brands.