Hawaii annually produces about 50 million pounds of macadamia nuts, with nearly all of those coming from the Big Island, according to John Cross, president of the 53-member Hawaii Macadamia Nut Association. And like most U.S. food producers these days, macadamia nuts growers and processors are focused on providing a safe commodity for consumers and complying with requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FMSA). They are also concerned about recent macadamia nut-related recalls and are exploring ways to limit Salmonella on their product.
Salmonella, the name of a group of bacteria, is one of the most common causes of food poisoning in the United States. Usually, symptoms last 4-7 days and most people get better without treatment. But, Salmonella can cause more serious illness in older adults, infants, and persons with chronic diseases. Salmonella is killed by cooking and pasteurization.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posted at least a dozen recalls in 2015 involving macadamia nuts, and another three have been announced so far in 2016. All of this year’s recalls to date involved nuts from Mahina Mele Farm south of Captain Cook. The farm also had a recall in August 2015 of one lot of macadamia nuts and nut butters due to potential Salmonella contamination.
Individual macadamia nut growers and processors in Hawaii are adapting to meet the challenges of producing a safe product. Mahina Mele Farm has installed new dehydrators with alarms that link to the owners’ phones so time and temperature can be more accurately monitored.
The Hawaii macadamia nut industry is exploring methods of post-harvest treatment so the risk of pathogens and other contaminants will be as low as possible.