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FDA norms on healthy nuts may not hit cashew exports

G.K. Nair

Cashew nuts from the country are exported in bulk, while processors in the US do the packaging. Exports, therefore, are unlikely to be affected.

Kochi , July 2

CASHEW exports are unlikely to be affected by the non-inclusion of the commodity in the select list healthy nuts of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is because exports from India are in plain and bulk form and value-addition and processors in the US do the consumer packing.

"Though the health claim provision was made about six months ago, cashew still continues to be a most preferred nut for the American consumer. Cashew can be and are being freely sold in the US," Mr K. Sasi Varma, Secretary, Cashew Export Promotion Council (CEPC), told Business Line on Thursday.

He said the FDA approval under discussion was a new provision in the US under which, the health benefits need to be mentioned on the consumer packs of food items. "Hence, it is not going to affect our exports," he said.

Certain tree nuts such as almonds and walnuts by virtue of their huge investment in health and nutrition studies have managed to get FDA approval for such health claims for consumer packs.

The CEPC is approaching the Union Government to sanction funds for undertaking detailed clinical studies on the health aspects of cashew, Mr Varma said.

Clinical studies would involve Rs 4-5 crore. If the health benefits of cashew were clinically established and propagated in the developed markets, it would definitely increase the export of cashew kernels even in non-traditional markets, industry sources pointed out.

Given this situation, the Union Government should come forward to assist the industry to take up scientific studies to establish the health benefits of cashew, Mr Varma said.

Scientific evidence suggests (but does not prove) that eating 1.5 ounce per day of most nuts may reduce the risk of heart diseases. The council is trying to gather enough evidence to confirm that cashew possesses these health benefits. "We are seeking assistance from organisations like the International Tree Nut Council for this purpose", he said.

According to a statistics published by the US Almond Board in 2001, cashew was the most favourite nut with over 30 per cent showing preference for it while the preference for Almonds was around 10 per cent and other nuts below 10 per cent.

The top 10 heart-friendly foods compiled by a professor of natural resources and environmental sciences at the University of Illinois in the US recently included nuts such as almonds, cashews, pecans and walnuts.

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