Research – Effect of Blanching on Aflatoxin Contamination and Cross-Contamination of Almonds

Journal of Food Protection


Blanching of almonds was examined for reducing the aflatoxin content of contaminated nuts. Almonds with intact pellicles were spiked with aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) and blanched at 85°C. Following blanching, almond kernels and pellicles contained 20 and 19% of the spiked AFB1, respectively. The blanching water contained an additional 41% of the spiked AFB1. In a separate study, postblanching water was spiked with AFB1 and used for subsequent blanching of uncontaminated almonds. The resulting blanched kernels acquired 3.3% of the AFB1 from the spiked water, demonstrating a low level of cross-contamination from reused contaminated blanching water. The effect of the blanching temperature on partitioning of AFB1 from almonds to blanching water was significant at a 20-ppb spiking level, but not at 100 ppb. AFB1 levels that were unaccounted for in the mass balance of blanching components were presumed to be lost due to binding to water-solubilized almond components and were independent of pH and blanching time. Blanching reduced total aflatoxins in naturally contaminated almonds by 13 to 76%, depending on almond quality, as well as blanching time and temperature. These results indicate that the association between almond components and aflatoxin generated through mold contamination is more complex than in spiking experiments.

  • Blanching and pellicle removal reduced aflatoxin in spiked almonds by up to 80%.
  • Low-level cross-contamination occurred in almonds blanched in contaminated water.
  • Aflatoxin reduction in naturally contaminated almonds by blanching was variable.

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