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Originally published September 17 2007

September 1, 2007 - The Day the Raw Almonds Died in North America

by Andrea Jean

(NaturalNews) In April 2007, NaturalNews reported on the Almond Board of California and USDA's plans to make the pasteurization of almonds mandatory. The final plan was published in the Federal Registry on March 30, 2007 and we are now beyond the implementation date of September 1, 2007.

According to the final regulations, all almonds must be pasteurized either thermally or with propylene oxide. The only exception to the pasteurization requirement would be for almonds exported outside of the United States, Canada and Mexico, and those almonds are required to be labeled as “unpasteurized.” Growers are also exempt from having to perform the pasteurization process directly if they choose, but are required to then ship the unpasteurized almonds to a “handler” corporation where the chemical or heat pasteurization would occur before final distribution.

Although steam pasteurization falls within the chemical standards of organic processing, it eliminates the option of organic raw almonds. Since the USDA denies any impact on the nutritional value of the almonds, producers of steam pasteurized almonds have been and will still legally able to label and market them as “raw” if they so choose. Nevertheless, the required pasteurization temperature of 158 degrees is well above the 110 to 120 degree breakpoint considered as a standard for raw food and therefore raw food proponents consider this to be an endorsement of deceptive marketing practices. According to the comments listed in the Federal Registry, one supporter of the new regulations has already begun pasteurizing his almonds and stated that “his raw almond business has increased since implementing 100 percent treatment with no increase in quality complaints.” His identity and the size of his farm was not disclosed.

The only other currently accepted and available method for pasteurization is fumigation with propylene oxide. Propylene oxide is a chemical compound used to manufacture sealants, aerosol pain concentrates, varnish removers, waterproofing compounds, and pesticides in addition to its uses as a fumigant in food production. It is listed as a probable human carcinogen by the EPA, has been shown in studies of rats to harm developing fetuses and may cause neuropathological changes in both rats and monkeys. According to the USDA, PPO is currently not permitted for food use in Canada or the EU but is allowed in Mexico.

Comments opposing the new regulations came from small growers who contend that these rules will force them out of business. The USDA’s response was to suggest that these growers examine their business model and determine the feasibility of remaining in business, and that their concerns had to be weighed against the safety of the population as a whole.

This new regulation effectively and completely ends any North American consumer ability to purchase domestically grown true organic, raw almonds except for residents of California who have access to local growers who can sell them at farmstead stands or by ordering from growers such as D&S Ranches in Selma, California who seem poised to fight this ruling.

The Almond Board of California and the USDA have cooperated in a manner that sends several interesting messages to consumers both here and abroad. Not requiring pasteurization for almonds destined for consumers outside of North America implies either that safety is more of a concern for domestic consumers or that foreign consumers are better able to evaluate their personal health decisions. It also suggests that the expense of pasteurization could negatively impact our competitiveness in the global almond market, which is contradictory to the USDA’s suggestion to small growers that competitive issues are not as important as public health safety. Finally, since California is the world’s largest producer of almonds, the extension of this regulation to Canada and Mexico means that the United States is essentially forcing its own policies on the citizens of other nations.

Consumers should keep in mind that any almonds labeled as “raw” in stores now are pasteurized and perhaps have been for quite some time.

Although it seems unlikely that the new regulations will be reconsidered since an appeal for implementation delay has already been rejected, organic and raw food advocates are still trying to bring public attention to the issue. Consumers can raise their voices by contacting their representatives or by visiting sites like Organic Consumers, which has an online petition for members, and the Cornucopia Institute, which has sample letters for printing and mailing.

About the author

Andrea is a Denver area financial planner, financial educator with the Heartland Institute of Financial Education, writer, wife & mother. Questions, comments and story ideas may be directed to [email protected]

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