Once cultivated by the Aztec and Mayan people, the cocoa tree now grows in many places around the world. Known for its use in chocolate, the raw cocoa bean also has some health benefits. Research done by the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry and sited by the World Cocoa Foundation suggests that raw cocoa beans have a high level of antioxidants that could be beneficial to human health. Yet, there are some dangers associated with the raw bean.
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There are some dangers associated with improperly storing raw cocoa beans. According to Germany's Transport Information Service, cocoa beans must be stored in certain ventilation, temperature and moisture conditions. Storing the raw bean in the wrong conditions could lead to mould, over fermentation or even self-combustion in extreme heat.
TIS warns transporters and consumers of possible contamination issues associated with raw cocoa beans. The TIS states that raw cocoa beans are known to take on odours and other airborne particles that may come into contact with the bean. A report conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also found contamination of cocoa beans in the form of mould. Individuals with a mould allergy, or an allergy to particles such as dust, may react to the bean.
Insect Infestation Dangers
Raw cocoa beans are susceptible to insect infestation. According to the U.S. FDA, cocoa trees are usually treated with fertilisers to prevent insects from getting to the insides of the cocoa beans. However, a FDA report indicates that 4 per cent of cocoa beans have an insect infestation; they refer to insects as a "filthy substance."
Though allergic reactions to raw cocoa beans are rare, their similarities to fruit can be reason for concern. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that allergic reactions to food products are the body's way of defending itself against an unwelcome substance. Allergies to cocoa can create headache, heart burn and skin irritations. In extreme cases, breathing problems may occur. If a person has a history of allergies, a doctor should be consulted before consuming raw cocoa beans.
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- The World Cocoa Foundation: Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry-Antioxidant Activity and Polyphenol and Procyanidin Contents of Selected Commercially Available Cocoa-Containing and Chocolate Products in the United States
- Transport Information Service: Risk Factors and Loss Prevention
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: CPG Sec. 515.750 Cocoa Beans - Adulteration by Mold, Insect Infestation, and Mammalian Excreta
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: GUIDE TO INSPECTIONS OF MANUFACTURERS OF MISCELLANEOUS FOOD PRODUCTS - VOLUME 1-Chocolate and Cocoa Products
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Food Allergy