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Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

Posts Tagged ‘cashews’

THE MAGNIFICENT CASHEW–MYSTERIOUS & DANGEROUS!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on September 7, 2017

Many people who experience allergic reactions after eating cashews have wondered what makes cashews so darned allergenic. Urushiol oil in the cashew shells is partly responsible and is also present in the other members of the cashew family: mangoes, pistachios, poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac.

The mango is less of an allergy problem than cashews, because the urushiol oil is mainly in the skin of the fruit that can easily be peeled while wearing gloves to avoid contact with the oil. The oil is also in the shells of pistachios, while the oil in poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac is found within the leaves.

The bigger issue with cashews is the caustic oils within the cashew shells that are released during processing. Harvesting cashews is a complex process few people in the developed world encounter. The details are shocking and very concerning and may explain what makes cashews an allergy issue for sensitive people. And as they say, “the devil is in the details” — and those details are not all positive.

Most nuts can be harvested and shelled with ease without causing toxic oils to flow from their shells, but cashews are unique in every way, from their strange growing habit to the harvesting and shelling processes The challenge for those

DYWPKB Cashew nuts growing on a tree This extraordinary nut grows outside the fruit

harvesting cashews is avoiding the caustic oils trapped between the two shells that protect the cashew nuts.

When consumers buy and enjoy cashews, they rarely, if ever, consider the struggles some workers experience when processing the nuts. Workers harvesting cashews earn a meager few dollars a day and many suffer from their effort because cashews, unlike any other nuts, pose real harvesting challenges.

The cashew nut, which is actually a seed, grows in a most unusual way–it simply hangs from the bottom of the fruit of the cashew tree known as cashew apple. The apple fruit itself hangs from a woody stem on a branch.

Native to Brazil, the cashew tree spread to India and East Africa by Portuguese missionaries in the 1600s. Today, India, Latin America, Africa, Vietnam, and other tropical areas throughout Southeast Asia are productive cashew regions.

In its raw form, the cashew nut is soft, white, and mealy, but when roasted, it turns a light beige color and becomes firm and intensely rich in flavor. Cashews are never sold in the shell because of the toxic residues that require careful processing to extract the nut safely.

The cashew harvesting challenge

Unlike any other tree nut, the cashew nut is a harvesting nightmare. The nut itself is encased in a shell consisting of two very tough layers–the hard outer shell and a thin, reddish skin that clings to the nut. Between those layers is the caustic substance, known as shell oil or anacardic acid and its byproducts, cardanol and urushiol. These oils contain toxic and allergenic substances that can cause burns and blisters on unprotected hands. If eaten raw, the untreated cashew causes burns on the tongue and throat.

The task of harvesting the cashew nuts frequently falls to poor, indigenous people who harvest by hand and work for pennies a day without protective gloves or goggles. For safe harvesting, workers ought to wear protective gear like gloves and goggles and avoid prolonged contact with the cashew oils or sap to prevent burning and blistering of the hands and fingers. Sadly, these precautions are seldom heeded.

The harvesting process

When the cashew fruit and nuts are fully ripened, they may fall to the ground or can be taken off the tree with a twist of the wrist. To extract the nut, the unshelled cashews are first sun-dried for several days. At this stage, the nuts can be stored for up to two years before processing.

The next step is roasting the nuts in their shells, a process that takes place outdoors to dissipate the toxic fumes and to avoid physical contact with the toxic oils that could be dangerous in enclosed areas.

Conducting the roasting outdoors makes good sense, but the roasting process emits a considerable amount of smoke that releases urushiol oil into the air. Inhaling this toxic shell oil fumes often causes irritation to the throat and lungs that can even be life-threatening to some people.

To protect the eyes from the noxious fumes, workers would benefit from wearing goggles that offer some protection. Unfortunately, the workers are rarely given such protection.

Often, crudely assembled roasting pans are covered with a lid or the nuts are covered with a layer of sand in the pans to prevent the heated shell oil from spitting out liquid. After roasting for 10 to 20 minutes, workers wash the nuts with soap and water with unprotected hands. Rarely are gloves provided, and shell oil residues may still be present on the nut.

In some regions the cashews are haphazardly grilled over a fire in a tin can filled with leaves and covered to avoid the sap exploding and hitting people with the black sticky substance. However, occasionally the sap does spew out and leaves marks on the skin that stays for days. The sap also stains clothing permanently. Sometimes workers suffer permanent damage from burns on the hands from the caustic oils.

During the roasting process, the high heat frequently opens the cashew shells, causing them to release the toxic oils. Sometimes these hot oils catch fire, tossing the dangerous fumes into the air, causing burns to the eyes and mucous membranes of the mouth, throat, and skin of nearby workers.

Cracking the nuts

After roasting, in some regions, the nuts are covered with ash or sawdust to absorb and remove any of the oils remaining in the shells. Then, the nuts are then ready to crack open, a process usually done by hand. In India, some workers use mallets to crack the shells and wire remove the nuts. Modern processing by machine, such as using centrifugal force to crack the nuts, makes this step faster, but the cost is prohibitive for many of the poor cashew farmers.

Following the shelling and washing process, the nuts are then placed on open racks or in ovens to dry the testa, the thin, paper-like skins that cling to the nuts. Making the testa dry and brittle makes it easier to remove the skins. Drying the nuts also helps to extend the shelf life of the cashews and prevents them from becoming rancid.

The skins are then removed by hand, sometimes with bamboo knives.

Roasting and packaging

The final step in the processing cycle is roasting the nut kernels to remove any remaining traces of shell oil residues that can cause skin eruptions or contact dermatitis similar to poison ivy. The nuts are then graded, separated for quality, and packaged and packed for export.

When American consumers see beautiful, jumbo size cashews in an attractive store display, they never see the suffering that brings those delicious nuts to market. Time Magazine wrote an article about “blood cashews,” describing workers in Vietnam who harvest cashews in forced labor camps where they are frequently beaten and tortured with electric shocks.

Understanding the labor-intensive process involved in cashew harvesting and the dangerous challenges of processing the nuts, makes it easy to see why the nuts are never sold in the shell.

 

Cashew Tree Byproducts

Those who might think the caustic shell oil had no value and is simply discarded may be surprised to learn that very caustic, blackish liquid is used in the automotive industry to make brake linings and clutch disks, items that can withstand friction and heat resistance. The liquid is essential in many other products like acid-resistant paints, resins, varnishes, enamels, black lacquers, and mouldings.

In some regions, the liquid is also used medicinally to treat leprosy, elephantiasis, psoriasis, ringworm, warts, and corns.

Because the wood of the cashew tree is insect repellent, it is used for bookcases and packing crates.

A resinous, sticky gum, referred to as Cashew Tree Latex, from the cashew tree can be used in place of gum Arabic, often used as glue for paper and book bindings. The gum can also act as a binding agent in the pharmaceutical industry for capsules and pills, a food stabilizer for juices, and in the production of cosmetics.

Indigenous people use every part of the cashew tree to create natural medicines or insect repellant. Everything from the leaves, bark, gum, wood, juice, and roots are put to good use. Even the testa, the paper-like skins covering the cashews, are used as cattle feed.

The misery of cashew allergies

Tree nuts, like walnuts, almonds, and pecans, contain proteins that cause allergic, and sometimes life-threatening reactions in sensitive people. Cashews, however, contain fewer of the allergenic substances than other tree nuts, yet the allergic reactions they cause can result in intensely itchy welts on the body and numbness around the mouth, lips, and tongue. Allergic reactions can differ from person to person and can be particularly distressing from cashews that were not harvested and processed with extreme care.

While some people never experience allergic reactions from consuming cashews, others who are more sensitive suffer miserably, often not realizing what is causing their problem.

I want to share some of the allergic reactions people have shared on this blog. It may be helpful to know others are experiencing similar reactions from consuming cashews:

  • Itchy rashes over large areas of the chest, back, and legs
  • Large patches of red welts or hives over the body
  • A chapped feeling on the lips
  • Numbness of the lips and mouth area
  • Calloused fingers
  • Pale stools
  • Stomach bloating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Stomach irritation
  • Blisters on the skin

Though these reactions are annoying and uncomfortable, they are not life-threatening.

Severe Reactions

Really sensitive people may even react to small traces of nut residues left on equipment during food processing. People who experience life-threatening reactions like anaphylactic shock know they need to avoid nuts completely and be on the alert to also avoid products like nut oils used in home products or body care cosmetics. Even foods processed in facilities that may have traces of nuts should be avoided.

Some people have thought cooking or heating nuts might reduce their allergenic properties, but heating does not offer this benefit. The allergenic proteins remain in the nuts even after cooking.

Interesting Tidbits

Cashew trees were so valued in Mozambique that during a household census people were asked if they had a cashew tree on their property.

In some of the areas where cashews are grown, cashew shoots are eaten as fresh salad.

Bolo polana, a cake made of finely ground cashews and mashed potatoes is a favorite in Mozambique and South Africa.

Cashew milk is frequently a substitute or alternative for dairy products used in some areas of Africa.

Kaju barfi is an Indian dessert made from finely ground cashews, sugar, cardamom, butter, and saffron and cooked to form firm dough. It is then rolled out and cut into diamond shapes.

Turrones de kasuy, a dessert similar to marzipan, is made from cashews, or kasuy, the Tagalog word for cashew. The confection is a specialty that comes from the province of Pampanga in the Philippines.

Fresh cashew apple fruits taste sweet and juicy and are fragrant but can leave the tongue and lips feeling unpleasant. For that reason, they are usually boiled and strained and boiled repeatedly.

Some varieties of mangoes can cause blisters on the skin. Sensitive people will find it helpful to wear protective gloves when peeling fresh mangoes.

The cashew kernel, or nut, contains 21% vegetable protein, comparable to the proteins in milk, eggs, and meat.

Cashew Apple Uses

The cashew apple is rich in vitamin C and could be considered an economical product. The apples can be dried, canned as a preserve, eaten fresh from the tree, and squeezed to enjoy as a juice. Brazilians make jam from the cashew apple as well as soft drinks and alcoholic beverages.

In West Africa, the juice is fermented to make cashew wine, but other countries throughout Asia and Latin America where the cashew tree is prolific enjoy cashew wine as well. The wine typically varies in alcoholic content from 6 to 12 percent.

References:

Agriculture Nigeria. “Cashew Production.” http://agriculturenigeria.com/farming-production/crop-production/cash-crops/cashew

Azeez, O.S. Production of Gum from Cashew Tree Latex, Chemical Engineering Department, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State, Nigeria http://lejpt.academicdirect.org/A07/17_22.htm

‘Blood cashews'” the toxic truth about your favorite nut. The Telegraph. Bee Wilson, May 4, 2015. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/11577928/Blood-cashews-the-toxic-truth-about-your-favourite-nut.html

Cashew Harvesting: Learn When And How To Harvest Cashews. Gardening Know How. Liz Baessler. December 29. 2015. http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/nut-trees/cashew/how-to-harvest-cashews.htm

Cashew. Wikipedia. July 13, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cashew http://www.fao.org/3/a-ac306e.pdf

Azam-Ali, S.H, and E.C. JudgeSmall-scale cashew nut processing. Schumacher Centre for Technology and Development. Burton on Dunsmore, Rigby, Warwickshire, UK, FAO, 2001

Enclyclopedia Britannica https://www.britannica.com/plant/cashew. Department of Agriculture. http://www.nda.agric.za/docs/Infopaks/cashew.htm

Let’s Talk Agric – Developing Agriculture in Africa. Friday, May 5, 2017 http://www.letstalkagric.com/agribusiness/cashew-nuts-need-know-cashew-farming

Turrones de Casoy. About Filipino Food. http://aboutfilipinofood.com/turrones-de-kasoy/

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THE DAZZLING NUTTY BALL-OFF SAGA!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on June 27, 2009

Chef AJ has done it again! An innovative instructor, ablaze with the desire to inspire, she motivated the students of her healthy cooking classes to challenge their deepest, most inventive skills to create an innovative, truly healthy fruit and nut ball. By holding a contest to inspire them, Chef AJ lit the spark that set the students on a whirlwind kitchen adventure to dazzle the judges.

The unique Ball-off Contest, held Sunday, June 7, 2009, proved to be an exciting, one-of-a-kind event that had all the contest participants, the onlookers, cheering section, and the judges on edge. There was to be only one winner who would receive a copy of my cookbook, The Nut Gourmet, in addition to private lessons with Chef AJ.

The distinguished judging panel
The judging panel of three included me, Zel Allen, my husband Reuben, who is co-publisher of Vegetarians in Paradise, an online vegetarian magazine, and Kimberly Horowitz. Chef AJ chose Kimberly as part of the panel of judges because Kimberly has the reputation of being a very fussy eater. Chef AJ says, “Kimberly hates everything! If she likes something at all, it must really be good.” We felt like celebrities with the power to change lives—well, almost.

Since there were six entries in the contest, there were six platters lined up at the judging table. Each platter, heaping with stunning fruit and nut-ball creations, had a number that corresponded to the participant. Only Chef AJ knew which balls belonged to which participant.

The balls were to be judged on three categories: appearance, creativity, and taste. Because each of the entries was amazing, flavorful, visually appealing, and downright delicious, each deserved special recognition. Choosing only one winner was tough—actually it was painfully agonizing and the judging panel deliberated with great seriousness to arrive at a true winner.

Let the tasting begin!
We tasted each of the balls, one at a time, and were captivated by each one. Yet we kept returning to platter #3, then platter #1, and again to platter #4, and #2. And on and on, savoring each of the distinctive entries. The creativity was commendable and refreshing.

Finally, we reached an exhilarating conclusion. The winner was Platter #2 that belonged to Nataly Carranza’s Almond Dream Balls. Quite often simple ingredients, assembled in just the ideal quantities, can become enchanting creations. That was what kept bringing our judging panel back to Platter #2. It was the combination of raw almonds, almond butter, and almond extract that earned the top award.

Below are the recipes for each of the delicious entries. Any one you choose to make will bring pleasure and taste delight to all who partake of these original taste treats made from all natural ingredients—nothing refined or processed here.

Nataly

Almond Dream Balls
By Nataly Carranza, the top prize winner

Yield: 15 to 20 balls

1/2 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup raw walnuts

1/2 cup pitted dates
1/4 cup raw almond butter
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Shredded coconut

1. Place the almonds and walnuts into the food processor and process until coarsely chopped.
2. Add the dates, almond butter, and almond extract and process until the mixture holds together.
3. Place the shredded coconut into a small bowl. Remove 1 tablespoon of the date/nut mixture from the processor at a time and roll into 1-inch balls.
4. Roll the balls in the shredded coconut to coat completely.

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Linda

Heavenly Balls
By Linda Zimmerling

Yield: 15 to 18 balls

1 cup raw pecans
1 handful dates soaked in water
5 unsoaked dates
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup dried cherries
1 tablespoon Vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon caramel extract

1. Combine all the ingredients in the food processor and process until they are well moistened and thoroughly combined to desired consistency.
2. Form the mixture into 1-inch balls by rolling between the palms of the hands.

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YiFan2

Mint Chocolate Chip Balls
By YiFan Rao

Yield: Twenty 3/4-inch balls

10 to 15 dates to taste
1/2 cup hemp seeds
2 tablespoons cacao powder
1 small bunch fresh mint leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup of almonds
1 cup of cashews (or any combination of nuts)

Cacao nibs for coating the balls

1. Place the dates, hemp seeds, cacao powder, mint leaves, and vanilla extract into the food processor and process to a mushy consistency. Remove the date mixture and set side.
2. Place the nuts into the processor and process to a flour consistency. Add the date mixture and process until well combined.
3. Form the fruit-nut mixture into small balls about 1-inch in diameter. Place the cacao nibs into a small bowl and roll the balls into the nibs to coat them.

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Paula2

Coconut Delights
By Paula Shields

Yield: about 18 balls

2 cups raw pecans
1 cup raw almonds
12 to 15 dates, soaked overnight in just enough water to cover
1 handful black and golden raisins combined
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, or more to taste

3 to 4 ounces coconut powder

1. Combine the almonds, dates, raisins, vanilla extract, sunflower seeds, and cinnamon in the food processor and process, adding the date water as needed to wet and bind the mixture.
2. Place the coconut powder into a small bowl. Form the date-nut mixture into 1-inch balls and roll them in the coconut powder to coat them completely.

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Blanca

Mama’s Balls
By Blanca Carranza

Yield: 15 to 20 balls

3 plantains

1/2 pitted dates
1/4 cacao powder
1/4 orange juice

Cacao nibs
1/4 raw chopped walnuts

1. Boil the plantains until soft. Cut them in half and remove the fibrous strings from the center
2. Place the plantains into the food processor along with the dates, cacao powder, and orange juice and process until smooth.
3. Remove about 1 tablespoon of the mixture at a time and roll into 1-inch balls.
4. Combine the cacao nibs and chopped walnuts in a small bowl and roll the balls in cacao nibs and chopped walnuts in the mixture to coat completely.

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TREASURE IN A NUTSHELL

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on February 7, 2009

I thought it might be helpful to have an overview of the nutritional highlights of tree nuts. While this listing is certainly a good quick reference, it only scratches the surface of the plethora of health benefits nuts have to offer.

It may seem that I’m promoting nuts as some sort of miracle food. Not so. I’m just recognizing nuts are one of Mother Nature’s many gems that are packed with goodness, especially when paired with other foods that are nutrient-dense and low in saturated fats.

In the information below there may be some terms that are unfamiliar. Here is a brief explanation:

Arginine –an amino acid that changes into nitric oxide that relaxes blood vessels and permits better blood flow. May help alleviate coronary artery disease like chest pain and clogged arteries (called atherosclerosis).

Phytosterols – natural plant fats found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds that benefits the body by interfering with the absorption of excess cholesterol

Antioxidants – combination of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes found in plant foods that prevents our tissues from oxidation that leads to degenerative diseases like cancer and heart disease

Tryptophan – an essential amino acid the body can’t manufacture and must get from food. Necessary for normal growth in infants and for nitrogen balance in adults. Used by the body to help make niacin and serotonin. Serotonin thought to produce healthy sleep and a stable mood

Folate – also known as folic acid or folacin, a form of the water-soluble Vitamin B9. Occurs naturally in food and can also be taken as a supplement. Helps prevent neural tube birth defects.

ALMONDS

    almond• Lower cholesterol, especially LDL (bad cholesterol)
    • Decrease risk for coronary heart disease
    • Lower risk for diabetes
    • Promote weight control
    • Good source of phytosterols
    • Excellent source of arginine
    • High in protein,
    • High in monounsaturated fats
    • High in minerals: calcium, iron, zinc, potassium,
    • High in vitamin E.
    • High in arginine
    • Packed with antioxidants

BRAZIL NUTS

    brazilnut• Provide powerful antioxidants
    • Highest level of selenium of all nuts
    • High in beneficial mono- and polyunsaturated fats
    • High in protein
    • High in minerals: calcium, copper, iron, potassium, and zinc
    • Source of arginine

CASHEWS

    cashew• Source of arginine
    • High in beneficial monounsaturated fat
    • High in protein
    • High in minerals: copper, potassium
    • High in folate
    • Help to lower cholesterol and decrease risk for coronary heart disease
    • Contain the highest levels of zinc of any nut
    • Excellent source of phytosterols

CHESTNUTS

    chestnut21• Super low in fats, especially saturated fat
    • High in B vitamins, good level of folate
    • The only nut to contain healthy level of vitamin C
    • Promote weight loss
    • Protect the heart
    • Lower cholesterol

HAZELNUTS

    hazelnut2• Contain the highest levels of copper of any nut
    • Protect the bones and blood vessels
    • High in minerals: calcium, potassium, zinc
    • High in folate
    • Lower cholesterol, especially LDL cholesterol
    • High in heart-protective vitamin E
    • High in fiber
    • Good source of phytosterols
    • Loaded with antioxidants

MACADAMIAS

    macadamia• Highest in beneficial monounsaturated fats
    • Highest in B vitamins of all nuts
    • High in phytosterols
    • High in fiber
    • Source of arginine

PEANUTS

    peanut2• High in resveratrol a heart-protective antioxidant
    • Promote weight loss
    • Combat prostate cancer
    • Highest in phytosterols
    • Lower cholesterol
    • Highest in arginine of all nuts
    • High in mono- and polyunsaturated fats
    • Good source of protein
    • High in minerals: calcium, iron, potassium, zinc
    • High in B vitamins, especially folate
    • High in fiber

PECANS

    pecan2• Highest in antioxidants of any nut
    • Good levels of phytosterols
    • High in beneficial monounsaturated fat
    • High in minerals: manganese, selenium, and zinc
    • High in B vitamins and heart-healthy vitamin E
    • High in fiber

PINE NUTS

    pinenut3• Excellent source of arginine
    • High in phytosterols
    • Good levels of mono- and polyunsaturated fats to keep cholesterol in check
    • Excellent source of protein
    • High in vitamin E and B vitamins, especially folate
    • High in fiber

PISTACHIOS

    pistachio2• Impressive levels of phytosterols
    • Packed with antioxidants
    • High in beneficial monounsaturated fat.
    • Good source of protein, calcium, iron, copper, and zinc.
    • High in vitamin E and B vitamins, especially folate
    • High in fiber
    • Excellent source of arginine

WALNUTS

    walnut2• Only nut (except butternut) with essential Omega 3 fatty acids
    • Lower cholesterol
    • Combat cancer
    • Boost memory
    • Lift mood
    • Protect against heart disease
    • Help to develop more than 3 dozen neuron-transmitters for brain function
    • High in tryptophan
    • Loaded with antioxidants
    • Good source of arginine
    • Good source of protein
    • Good source of minerals: calcium, copper, iron, zinc
    • High in vitamin E and B vitamins, especially folate
    • High in fiber

Posted in almonds, Antioxidants in Nuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, hazelnuts, Macadamias, Minerals in Nuts, Nut Nutrition, Nuts and Health, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

THE CURIOUS CASHEW

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on February 5, 2009

Compared to other nuts, the growing habit of cashews is–well, strange, bizarre, and curious.

Every tree nut has something special about the way it grows and what portions of the tree are useful for other purposes. Cashews are not the exception and are most unique. Not only does the cashew tree produce delicious cashew nuts, it also offers resources useful for edible and commercial purposes.
cashewapple2
The cashew tree is a peculiar plant with multiple uses, yet we’re only familiar with one of its fruits—the cashew nut. The cashew tree also produces an edible, pear-shaped fruit called the cashew apple. The fruit, extremely rich in vitamin C, is eaten raw, as well as made into jam, marmalade, candy, and juices.

The photos in this post show the exotic cashew apple with the cashew nut in its shell growing at the base of the fruit.
cashewapple
In addition to being an excellent food source, the cashew yields oil used in flavoring and cooking foods. The tree produces a sap or gum sometimes used in bookbinding and often incorporated into a varnish used to protect woodwork from insect damage.

The cashew nutshell contains an oil used in the manufacture of brake linings and is sometimes applied to metals as an anti-corrosive agent. The shell oil is also utilized for waterproofing and as an adhesive. Natives in South America applied cashew nutshell oil in the treatment of scurvy, sores, warts, ringworm and psoriasis. The oil is found to have potent antibacterial properties. Not many plants can claim to provide so many benefits.

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