Mixed nuts are a snack food consisting of any mixture of mechanically or manually combined nuts. Peanuts (actually a legume), almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, filberts, hazelnuts, and pecans are common constituents of mixed nuts. Mixed nuts may be salted, roasted, cooked, or blanched.
In addition to being eaten directly, mixed nuts can be used in cooking, such as for Tunisian farka, tarts, and toffee. Trail mix consists of nuts mixed with raisins and other dry ingredients.
In Japan, mixed nuts are the second most popular table nuts, behind sweet chestnuts; in the United States, they are second only to peanuts. Mixed nuts have also gained in popularity in the Argentinian market, which imported some $1.9 million in 1997, nearly half from the U.S. During the year 2002, U.S. companies sold $783 million of mixed nuts incorporating four or more varieties, mostly in canned form, representing hundreds of millions of pounds.
- "In the average can of mixed nuts, you might find almonds from Italy, walnuts from China, Brazil nuts from Bolivia, cashews from India, pistachios from Turkey, hazelnuts from Canada—a true international assortment."
This reality provides an incentive for nut salters to favor free trade for nuts, as opposed to nut farmers, who would generally support trade barriers. In fact, one historical argument for United States salters is that importing nuts can encourage domestic production, since mixed nuts provide a "wagon" on which everyone's sales ride. For example, cashews are not produced in North America, and it is necessary to import them because mixed nuts are essential to the sale of pecans, which are grown exclusively in North America.
Because they are relatively inexpensive, peanuts are typically a major ingredient in mixed nuts, although they are viewed as less fancy than other nuts; often "deluxe mixed nuts" are advertised as containing no peanuts. In 2006, a batch of "deluxe" mixed nuts was recalled because peanuts had crept into the mix. The move was not to save face: peanuts are the ingredient of mixed nuts most commonly associated with life-threatening food allergies.
Less dramatically, some mixed nuts advertise themselves to contain "less than 50% peanuts". For a 60 Minutes segment that originally aired in 1997, Andy Rooney tested such a 12 oz can of Planters brand nuts, pleading boredom on a Saturday. He determined that "there was a tiny fraction less than six ounces of peanuts . . . amazing precision for a nut factory." Later, in 2004, a cockeyed.com How much is inside? episode estimated that the peanut weight percentage in two such 11.5 oz cans was, in fact, a little over 50%.
Besides peanuts, cashews are usually the next least expensive nut, and in deluxe mixes they tend to be the most common ingredient. Hazelnuts and Brazil nuts are also "relatively cheap", while pecans are the most expensive ingredient.
Percent composition by weight is a serious matter in the U.S., where mixed nuts have been regulated by the Food and Drug Administration since 1977. Up to that point, the phrase "mixed nuts" had been legally meaningless. A 1964 Consumer Reports investigation of 124 cans of mixed nuts, representing 31 brands bought in 17 American cities, determined that most mixed nuts of the time were mostly peanuts, often 75%; peanutless brands were usually dominated by cashews. Many cans bore misleading labels or were underfilled. Consumer Reports concluded, "What's needed of course is a Federal standard of identity...", detailing a list that of requirements that, with the exception of their desire to limit broken nuts, anticipated the 1977 rules.
On March 15, 1977, the FDA promulgated a new standard of identity for mixed nuts in 42 FR 14475. The present standard, as modified by 58 FR 2885, Jan. 6, 1993, requires that mixed nuts must contain at least four different varieties of tree nuts or peanuts. (Products with three or fewer varieties are now commonly labelled as simply "mixes".) The container volume must be at least 85% filled, and the label must state whether any peanuts are unblanched or of the Spanish variety.
The most detailed section deals with weight percentages:
- "Each such kind of nut ingredient when used shall be present in a quantity not less than 2 percent and not more than 80 percent by weight of the finished food."
Furthermore, if a variety X exceeds 50%, the label must conspicuously state "contains up to 60% X", and so on in 10% increments up to 80%. (The first example given by the FDA is "contains up to 60% pecans".) When testing mixed nuts for compliance, the FDA samples at least 24 pounds to reduce sampling error.
Modifying words like "fancy" or "choice" have not historically carried any legal meaning in the United States, and they remain absent from the current regulations. In a 1915 federal case against "fancy mixed nuts" that were argued by competitors to be an inferior grade, U. S. v. 25 Bags of Nuts, N. J. No. 4329 (1915), the court declined to accept a trade standard:
- "It seems to me that until the Department establishes a set standard of quality... it would be altogether unsafe... to make them amenable to such a vague and indefinite standard as I understand the Government seeks to establish by the testimony of men engaged in the business of handling nuts."
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- The phrase "mixed nuts" is also used to indicate a mixture of disparate elements other than nuts, as in the film Mixed Nuts.
- When a container of mixed nuts is opened after it has been shaken, the larger nuts tend to be on top. This phenomenon is known as the Brazil nut effect in the study of granular materials.
- NARA (April 2005). CFR Title 21. Part 164: Tree nut and peanut products .110: Mixed nuts. Regulatory action guidance at CPG 7112.06 Sec. 570.700. URLs accessed on 2006-05-17.
- "Sweet couscous with nuts and dates". Bon Appétit. May 1995. Retrieved 2006-05-23.
- "Chocolate and mixed nut tart in cookie crust". Bon Appétit. Frebruary 2002. Retrieved 2006-05-23.
- "Mixed-nut spiced toffee". Bon Appétit. December 2002. Retrieved 2006-05-23.
- JETRO (March 2001). Japanese Market Report #57: Nuts (PDF). Archived from the original on 2006-03-09. Retrieved 2006-05-17.
- U.S. Census Bureau (December 2004). Roasted Nuts and Peanut Butter Manufacturing: 2002 (PDF). Retrieved 2006-05-17.
- Groves, Gary (1999-01-27). Argentina Market Development Reports: Tree Nuts: Walnuts, Almonds, Hazelnuts, and Chestnuts 1999 (PDF). Global Agriculture Information Network. Retrieved 2006-05-17.
- W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm (March 2003). The Fruits of Free Trade (PDF). Retrieved 2006-05-23.
- Johnson, Carl; C. Corse and C. Braun (1947-04-17). "Statements in opposition". In George Reid, Clerk. Hearings Before the Committee on Agriculture, House of Representatives, Eightieth Congress, First Session, on H. R. 452 to amend the provisions of the agricultural adjustment act relating to marketing agreements and orders. Washington: GPO. pp. 235–239. Y 4.AG 8/1:M 34/11.
- John B. Sanfilippo and Son, Inc. (2006-01-07). "Undeclared Peanuts Prompts Recall of Fisher Mixed Nuts". Firm Recalls. FDA. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
- Montopoli, Brian (2006-04-19). "What Was Andy Thinking…in 2000?". Public Eye. CBS News. Retrieved 2006-05-18.
- Rooney, Andrew (2003). Years of Minutes. PublicAffairs. pp. 370–371. ISBN 1-58648-211-4.
- Cockerham, Rob; others (2004-05-12). "How Much is Inside Planters Mixed Nuts?". cockeyed.com. Retrieved 2006-05-17.
- Staff (November 1974). "Mixed nuts". Consumer Reports: 541–543.
- Herrick, Arthur (1947). Food Regulation and Compliance. New York: Revere. pp. 205–206. LCC HD9000.9 U5 H4.