Almond Growers Seek Delay of Pasteurization Rule

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August 30, 2007 | 86,906 views

In January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that virtually all almonds would have to be pasteurized as of September 1. This new rule was a result of Salmonella outbreaks in 2001 and 2004 that were traced back to raw almonds.

The California Almond Board is now requesting the USDA delay the implementation until March 1, 2008 in order to ensure there’s enough pasteurization capacity available to comply, without disrupting the flow of nuts to the market.

The USDA has stated it will consider the request and publish their decision in the Federal Register by September 1.

San Francisco Gate August 7, 2007 

This San Francisco Gate article states that “pasteurization” is a process where “the shelled and hulled nuts are laid out on a conveyor belt that passes through a moist burst of steam to heat the kernel surface to about 200 degrees, killing any pathogens present.”

As gentle and safe as this may sound, pasteurizing almonds means they are no longer natural or raw.

Anytime you heat a food much above 105 degrees you start destroying the value of the food. The higher the temperature the more damage that is done.

The requirement to pasteurize ALL almonds means that it may be next to impossible to find an almond in the United States that's still in the state nature intended, and no one knows how this process will impact the nutritional value or other properties of the nuts.

This is not rocket science folks. Nearly everyone readily accepts that when you cook vegetables to death they do not provide the same nutritional value as when they are eaten raw. Similarly, I have documented the enormous problems with pasteurized milk. It would seem rational to conclude that one would see similar reduction in the nutritional value of the almonds once they are pasteurized. Fortunately hundreds of thousands of Americans are finally appreciating this truth and making a major shift to raw milk.

Meanwhile, in a letter received on April 30, 2007 from Mr. Richard Waycot, the president and CEO of the Almond Board of California (ABC) himself as a response to an article I had posted on my site, I was told that the ABC will not use any heating or radiation to “pasteurize” their almonds. Instead, he explained, they will use propylene oxide in their almond “pasteurization” process. In the FDA’s “Guide to Inspections of Manufacturers of Miscellaneous Food Products,” this process is referred to as “terminal gas sterilization.”

Also, in April 2007, the FDA proposed relaxing the labeling requirements, and allowing companies to use the more palatable term "pasteurized", to describe irradiated foods ,if the radiation kills germs as well as the pasteurization process does. In essence, this means that almonds may not only be pasteurized, but irradiated. Apparently the term “pasteurized” is an OK substitute for “terminal gas sterilization” as well. If the FDA gets its way, as long as the food looks and smells normal, chances are better than good you won't ever know whether that specific food has been "nuked,” or  “terminally gassed,” or not.

In his letter, Mr. Waycott also stated, "Pasteurized raw almonds do not differ in any significant way, taste, quality, or nutritional value from untreated almonds. Pasteurization simply reduces the presence of harmful bacteria on those almonds to safe levels while maintaining taste, quality, and nutritional value."

I don’t think so.

Even a simple search for proplyene oxide in Wikipedia provides the following information: "Propylene oxide is a highly toxic flammable chemical compound. It was once used as a racing fuel, but that usage is now prohibited under the US National Hot Rod rules for safety reasons. It is also used in thermobaric weapons. It is an epoxide."

The bottom line is that if any process kills bacteria, it has the potential to cause problems in humans, OR significantly change the quality of the food. The flimsy reassurances that “pasteurized” almonds -- after being treated with prohibited racing fuel -- would be the same as raw almonds are simply false.

As an aside, although many turn to nuts as a health food, I consistently find that overweight patients who find it difficult to lose weight are eating a lot of almonds or other nuts. It is one of the most common reasons why people cannot lose weight, or lose weight slowly, while following a low- or no-grain diet.

Like most whole foods, nuts can have important health benefits, just use them sparingly if you are overweight, and be sure to choose nuts that are ideal for your nutritional type.

If you want to write a letter to the US Department of Agriculture to express your concerns you can follow the model Cornucopia Institute used.and send ti to

Secretary Mike Johanns
United States Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave SW
Whitten Building Suite 200A
Washington, D.C. 20250