Melanie Boudar

Cacao Nibs and Pathogen Risk

user image 2011-09-04
By: Melanie Boudar
Posted in:
I have had customers asking me for cacao nibs and roasted and raw cacao beans but have been reluctant to stock these items due to salmonella or other pathogen risk. After seeing cacao beans being fermented and dried in numerous countries I question the safety of these products. Dirt, bugs, drying on asphalt roads etc..I question from all but the most sophisticated winnowing operations to remove the husk. Am I overreacting to the risk ? Does the roasting process kill these pathogens? Is anyone using ultra -violet technology to sterilize the nibs? One request came from a home beer brewer. Would the alcohol distilling process render the nibs safe? Appreciate the feedback..


Mark J Sciscenti
10/06/11 12:47:07AM @mark-j-sciscenti:
I discussed this with Derek at Waialua recently - he has the same concerns. Even though he works for Dole - they can't afford to cover potential problems either and has decided to pull the initial offerings he has local to Hawaii. I did suggest that he might look into selling the roasted beans though - after the testing done by Guittard. Of course, we were having this discussion standing over the drying racks, eating the beans straight up. No problems to speak of... lol!
Seneca Klassen
09/07/11 07:39:33PM @seneca-klassen:

Hi Clay--

Our local library was able to get a copy, amazingly. Caveat emptor: I am absolutely no scientist and my reading of technical information might well be incorrect.

If it is correct though, it seems that although Salmonella in solution can definitely be killed by UVC, the dosage required is pretty high, and must be combined with a pretty long exposure time. The problem for us chocolate folks is twofold:

1) We've got an opaque irregular surface to treat


2) Contamination of bugs like Salmonella and E. Coli are most likely during drying, and penetration of the testa during that phase seems quite possible. Obviously, if the pathogen is not on the surface, then UV treatment wouldn't catch it.

Clay Gordon
09/07/11 03:49:04PM @clay:


Curious as to where the source of the information you have on UV comes from - and I am assuming UVC, right?

antonino allegra
09/07/11 01:50:47PM @antonino-allegra:

Hi There,

finally we start to find some research on "raw" chocolate.

I am a chocolate maker and continuously i get asked to sell "raw" beans because are healthy.. there is even a chocolatier that claims to make chocolate by using uncooked raw beans because they are better!!

I don't mind the "raw" movement but i wish they would give the right information to the customers..

Thanks Seneca for the link, i will make a great use of it.

If anyone has more scientific test/proof on this matter,please post for the others!

Melanie Boudar
09/07/11 03:01:43AM @melanie-boudar:
Thanks for your input Seneca, I was hoping more people would jump in on this topic which I think is important.
Seneca Klassen
09/04/11 03:28:35PM @seneca-klassen:

I think it's wise to consider all cocoa at the fermented & dried stage as potentially contaminated, especially with salmonella. If the beans have been roasted and *properly* winnowed (i.e. shell content reduced as close to 0% as possible in a food-grade environment), I'd be less concerned, but there still is a risk if the roast wasn't sufficient to ensure a multiple-log kill. Here's a relevant link:

It's my understanding currently that UV wouldn't be an effective process.

In general, this should be an area of strong concern especially for smaller producers, who often don't have effective HACCP plans, and may also be under-insured for their real level of risk.