Brazil nuts [German version]

Table of contents

Product information
  Container transport
  Cargo securing

Risk factors and loss prevention:
Temperature Odor
Humidity/Moisture Contamination
Ventilation Mechanical influences
Biotic activity Toxicity/Hazards to health
Gases Shrinkage/Shortage
Self-heating/Spontaneous combustion Insect infestation/Diseases

Product information

Product name

German Paranüsse, Brasilnüsse
English Brazil nuts
French Noix de Brasil
Spanish Nuezes del Brasil
Scientific Bertholletia excelsa
CN/HS number * 0801 20 ff.

(* EU Combined Nomenclature/Harmonized System)

Product description

Brazil nuts are the large, elongate, three-sided, oily seeds of the South American brazil nut tree (monkey-pot tree family, Lecythidaceae). Because of their flavor, they are also known as the butternut or cream nut.

Brazil nuts are shell fruit (nut types). Because of their similar characteristics with regard to transport, particularly their high oil content, their requirements regarding care during storage and transport are the same as those of oil-bearing seeds/fruits.

The Brazil nut tree which, at a height of 20 – 60 m, towers over the canopy of the tropical forest has a fruit capsule 30 cm in diameter which contains 10 – 40 three-sided, brown nuts, each 3 – 5 cm in length. These nuts are arrayed around a central column, in a similar manner to the segments of a citrus fruit around the placenta. The shell of the nut is extremely hard, wrinkly and woody. The shell encloses a white seed kernel which is surrounded by a brown seed coat, which contains antioxidants which protect the oil-rich seed from atmospheric oxygen so preventing it from becoming rancid (oxidative rancidity).

Once they have fallen to the ground, the fruit capsules are harvested by collectors, broken open, washed and then taken to collection centers, from which they are dispatched to shelling plants or traders.

Oil content:

50 – 68% [1]
up to 70% [3]

Quality/Duration of storage

The seed kernel of the Brazil nut should be white, of a solid consistency with a sweet-oily flavor. Misshapen, discolored or inedible nuts are classed as „bad“ nuts. After counting, up to 10% of bad nuts are tolerated in international trade.

Brazil nuts are traded in their shells, shelled, or as chipped or broken nuts.

It is very important for the surveyor to ascertain the year of harvest: it must be taken into consideration that the nuts may be mixed with nuts from the previous year’s harvest. This possibility must not be disregarded when determining whether or not loss has occurred in transit. Nuts from the previous year’s harvest have a tendency to beetle infestation and rancidity. The capsules are collected in Brazil from January to May.

Intended use

Brazil nuts have a very high nutritional value. They are mainly eaten raw and used as an ingredient in nut and snack mixes (trail mixes). Brazil nuts are industrially processed into meal and edible oil.


(Click on the individual Figures to enlarge them.)

Foto Paranüsse

Figure 1
Foto Paranuss

Figure 2
Foto Paranüsse

Figure 3

Countries of origin

This Table shows only a selection of the most important countries of origin and should not be thought of as exhaustive.

America Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, Guyana

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Unshelled nuts are packaged in, among other things, polysacks (5 – 20 kg), while kernels are packaged in cartons (10 kg, usually vacuum-packed in film) and flat jute fabric bags (75 kg).

Brazil nuts are also shipped in hermetically sealed tinplate canisters of equal weight which prevent mold, rancidity and total loss.

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Symbol Stückgut

General cargo
Symbol Temperaturgeführt


Means of transport

Ship, truck, railroad

Container transport

Ventilated containers (coffee containers), if the lower limits set for the water content of goods, packaging and flooring and the oil content of the goods are complied with and if protection against solar radiation is ensured (risk of self-heating).

Cargo handling

In damp weather (rain, snow), the cargo must be protected from moisture, since it may lead to mold, spoilage and self-heating as a result of increased respiratory activity.

No hooks should be used with bagged cargo, so as to prevent damage to the bags and loss of volume.

Stowage factor

1.80 m³/t (flat jute fabric bags, 75 kg) [1]
1.20 m³/t (10 kg cartons) [1]
2.29 – 2.37 m³/t (bulk) [11]
2.51 – 2.65 m³/t (bags) [11]

Stowage space requirements

Cool, dry, good ventilation. Do not stow near heat sources.


Fiber rope, thin fiber nets. If shipment is in bulk, especially in small batches, these must be carefully kept apart by bulkheads.

Cargo securing

In order to ensure safe transport, the bags/cartons must be stowed and secured in the means of transport in such a manner that they cannot slip or shift during transport. Attention must also be paid to stowage patterns which may be required as a result of special considerations, such as ventilation measures.

In the event of loading as general cargo, dunnage should be used to protect against damage:

Floor dunnage: criss-cross dunnage and packing paper
Side dunnage: lining with wooden dunnage and mats or jute coverings: protection from metal parts of the ship, since traces of metal promote cargo rancidity due to autoxidation.
Top dunnage: important for voyages to cold regions (winter), since sweat may drip onto the cargo.

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Risk factors and loss prevention

RF Temperature

Brazil nuts require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions (SC VII) (storage climate conditions).

Travel temperature: 5 – 25°C [1]

For this reason, precise details should always be obtained from the consignor as to the travel temperature to be maintained.

Temperatures > 30°C must not prevail for a long period, as such temperatures promote respiration of the cargo and cause self-heating.

Brazil nuts should not be stowed near heat sources (engine room bulkhead, heated tanks). Daily temperature measurements should be taken and the results recorded.

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RF Humidity/Moisture

Brazil nuts require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions (SC VII) (storage climate conditions).

Term Humidity/water content Source
Relative humidity 70% [1]
Water content 3 – 8% [1]
5% [14]
Maximum equilibrium moisture content 65% [1], [14]

Precise details should be obtained from the consignor as to the relative humidity to be maintained during the voyage.

Moist and heated Brazil nuts must be rejected. Moisture damage is caused by incorrect storage, by rain during cargo handling, condensation water (container/ship sweat) and by release of water vapor by the nuts when ventilation is inadequate. Avoid wettening liquids.

Excessively moist Brazil nuts exhibit mold which, after a relatively long period, destroys the kernels. At the initial stage, this damage can be remedied by turning over a bulk cargo with shovels, but may result in total loss if it progresses further.

Damage caused by ship sweat can reliably be differentiated from moisture damage which occurred before shipment only by inspection of the cargo on board.

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RF Ventilation

Brazil nuts require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions (SC VII) (storage climate conditions).

Recommended ventilation conditions: air exchange rate at least 10 changes/hour (airing)

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RF Biotic activity

Brazil nuts display 2nd order biotic activity.

They are living organs in which respiration processes predominate, because their supply of new nutrients has been cut off by separation from the parent plant.

Care of the cargo during the voyage must be aimed at keeping decomposition processes at the lowest possible level, so as to keep within limits any losses in quality caused by the emission of CO2, heat and water vapor.

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RF Gases

Brazil nuts (especially when fresh) produce ripening gases (particularly CO2) as a result of the respiration processes which continue postharvest. 

If ventilation has been inadequate (frost) or has failed owing to a defect, life-threatening CO2 concentrations or O2 shortages may arise. Therefore, before anybody enters the hold, it must be ventilated and a gas measurement carried out. The TLV for CO2 concentration is 0.49 vol.%.

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RF (Self-)heating/(Spontaneous) combustion

Oil content:

50 – 68% [1]
up to 70% [3]

Due to their high oil content, Brazil nuts have a strong tendency to become rancid.

Because of their tendency to self-heating, Brazil nuts may behave like substances from Class 4.2 of the IMDG Code. See also IMO Code of Safe Practice for Solid Bulk Cargoes.

Self-heating is usually caused by external heating, excessively deep stowage and moisture.

Brazil nuts should not be stowed together with fibers/fibrous materials as oil-impregnated fibers may promote self-heating/spontaneous combustion of the cargo.

Nuts from the previous year’s harvest have a particular tendency to rancidity.

Fat decomposition in Brazil nuts leads to the risk of self-heating and, ultimately, to a cargo fire.

Fat decomposition may proceed as follows:

by hydrolytic/enzymatic fat cleavage or
by oxidative fat cleavage

Hydrolytic/enzymatic fat cleavage:

If the critical water content of the Brazil nuts is exceeded, this promotes hydrolytic/enzymatic fat cleavage. Fat-cleaving enzymes are activated by the elevated water content. The additional action of light and heat may accelerate this process. Free fatty acids sometimes have an unpleasant odor and taste. In the event of extended storage or improper cargo care, these cause the cargo to become rancid.

The free fatty acids formed are consumed by respiration processes in the Brazil nuts to form carbon dioxide and water, a process which is associated with considerable evolution of heat.

Self-heating of Brazil nuts is an extremely vigorous process, as the consumption of fatty acids by respiration processes is associated with a considerably greater evolution of heat than is the case with the respiration equation for carbohydrates. Here too, as with cereals, the spoilage process proceeds in a type of chain reaction, because heat and water are formed by the fatty acids consumed by respiration, which in turn contribute to an intensification of the process.

The self-heating of Brazil nuts requires only a small seat of moisture, so that within just a few hours heating may occur at moist points for which weeks or months would be required in goods dry on shipment.

Fresh Brazil nuts with a high water content tend in particular towards rapid self-heating and may also ignite. Self-heating of Brazil nuts leads not only to a reduction in the utility value of this product (rancid odor and taste) but also has a qualitative and quantitative effect on oil yield. The color and bleachability of the oils are also negatively affected. The oil obtained complicates refining of the crude oils in subsequent processing, because a higher free fatty acid content makes decolorization substantially more difficult.

Hydrolytic/enzymatic fat cleavage and respiration may be limited by low temperatures; however, this may only be affected to a limited degree during transport. It is therefore important to ensure storage stability by complying with the limit values for the water content of the goods.

Oxidative fat cleavage:

Food components frequently react with atmospheric oxygen in spoilage processes. Atmospheric oxygen may enter into an addition reaction with unsaturated fatty acids through the simultaneous assistance of light, heat and certain fat companion substances, and possibly also traces of heavy metals. Rancidity caused by oxidative fat cleavage is particularly noticeable in the case of shelled Brazil nuts, because the shelling process results to a certain degree in exposure to atmospheric oxygen or to the steel parts of the ship or the container walls, if not carefully covered. It is therefore absolutely essential to store Brazil nuts in the dark and to protect them from oxygen and metal parts, since otherwise they become brown-colored and develop a rancid odor and taste.

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RF Odor

Active behavior Brazil nuts have a very slight, pleasant odor.
Passive behavior Odor-sensitive to unpleasant and/or pungent odors (similar behavior to peanuts, hazelnuts).

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RF Contamination

Active behavior The high oil content of the goods frequently causes dark fat stains to appear on the bags, which must therefore be kept from coming into contact with goods sensitive to contamination, such as baled goods, tea chests, marble etc..

Brazil nuts in bags must not be stowed together with fibers or fibrous materials, either, since oil-impregnated fibers accelerate self-heating processes.

Brazil nuts often also contain a high proportion of fine dust or sand.
Passive behavior Brazil nuts are sensitive to dust, dirt, fats and oils. The holds or containers must accordingly be clean and in a thoroughly hygienic condition before loading.

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RF Mechanical influences

Brazil nuts are impact- and pressure-sensitive.

Brazil nuts in bags are stacked to a height of up to 20 bags. However, the stack pressure leads to self-heating, especially in the case of fresh, crushed nuts. Oils which have accumulated in the jute fabric of the bags promote this behavior, which may ultimately result in complete loss of the cargo.

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RF Toxicity/Hazards to health

If ventilation has been inadequate (frost) or has failed owing to a defect, life-threatening CO2 concentrations or O2 shortages may arise. Therefore, before anybody enters the hold, it must be ventilated and a gas measurement carried out. The TLV for CO2 concentration is 0.49 vol.%.

Danger: Brazil nuts may contain aflatoxin. Brazil nuts are therefore tested for aflatoxins prior to export and in the importing countries, as these develop particularly frequently as a result of improper harvesting and storage.

The molds Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus produce the toxin aflatoxin, which may be present in the cargo as a result of an attack by the above-mentioned mold types (c.f. risk factors Humidity/Moisture and Ventilation). In general, this is „country damage“, i.e. the toxin is already present in the Brazil nut at the time of harvesting. As a rule, aflatoxin is only found in individual nuts. If batches intended as a human foodstuff are affected by this toxin, the product can no longer be approved for human consumption. Nuts affected by aflatoxin cannot readily be distinguished from the other nuts in a batch. The toxin may be detected using UV light.

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RF Shrinkage/Shortage

In the case of conventional loading, volume is generally lost only as a result of tears in bags.

There is a risk of theft as this is a valuable cargo.

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RF Insect infestation/Diseases

Mites, cockroaches, sawtoothed grain beetles, flour beetles, meal moths, dried fruit moths and rats and mice may attack Brazil nuts. Nuts from the previous year’s harvest have a particular tendency to beetle infestation.

The quarantine regulations of the country of destination must be complied with and a phytosanitary certificate and fumigation certificate may have to be enclosed with the shipping documents. Information may be obtained from the phytosanitary authorities of the countries concerned.

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