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A cashew seed is surrounded by a double shell containing an allergenic phenolic resin, anacardic acid, a potent skin irritant chemically related to the more well-known allergenic oil urushiol which is also a toxin found in the related poison ivy.

Properly roasting cashews destroys the toxin, but it must be done outdoors as the smoke (like that from burning poison ivy) contains urushiol droplets which can cause severe, sometimes life-threatening, reactions by irritating the lungs.

This means that all cashews must be processed before eating for fear of ingesting a poison ivy-like resin. For all you obsessed with organic products, even “organic” or “natural” cashews have to go through this process.