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Organic Consumers Association

Tell USDA Not to Allow Companies to Process Almonds with Toxic Chemicals & High Heat & Label Them 'Raw Almonds'

In response to two outbreaks of Salmonella in 2001 and 2004 traced to raw almonds grown in California, the Almond Board of California and the USDA have quietly developed a new regulation mandating that all almonds undergo a sterilization process that includes chemical and/or high-temperature treatments.

The plan is angering many small-scale farmers, retailers, and consumers. This new rule is controversial for many reasons.  It could force family farms out of business, ignores the underlying systemic problems with conventional agriculture that cause food contamination, and is upsetting to consumers seeking organic and raw foods.

Truth in Advertising, or Greenwashing Questionable Technology?

While the USDA generously describes the new almond treatments as pasteurization, the most common treatment method expected to be used fumigates almonds with propylene oxide.  In lab experiments, the chemical leads to gene mutation, DNA strand breaks, and neoplastic cell transformation.  The U.S. EPA has classified propylene oxide as a probable human carcinogen.  Its use in treating food for human consumption is banned in the European Union, Canada, Mexico, and most other countries.  

Organic Almonds Might Be Safer but Will Not Be "Raw"

The only exemptions to these new regulations will be organic "raw" almonds, which will not be fumigated, but will undergo the steam-heat treatment, and small-scale growers who can sell truly raw almonds but only direct to the public from farm stands. Almonds that have heat treatment will deceptively still be labeled as "raw," despite having undergone surface sterilization treatments.

Family Farmers Could Be Squeezed Out of Business

The costs of the chemical and heat treatments, in addition to the costs of transporting and recording the new procedures, will be especially onerous on small-scale and organic farmers.  The equipment to pasteurize almonds is very expensive.  A propylene oxide chamber costs $500,000 to $1,250,000, and a roasting line can cost as much as $1,500,000 to $2,500,000.  Smaller, family-operated handlers that buy almonds from small, family-owned almond growers and cater to the organic and natural foods markets, are concerned that they will not be able to afford such expensive equipment and will be forced out of the almond business.

Pasteurization?

Unlike milk, eggs, and meats, for which real pasteurization or cooking offers an important protection from food-borne illness, no scientific evidence exists to show that almonds are an inherently risky food.  In fact, Salmonella contamination of almonds can only occur when livestock manure or fecal matter is inadvertently transferred to the nuts through contaminated water, soil, or transportation and handling equipment.  Almonds may also be infected by poor employee sanitation either on the farm or in processing facilities.  

While two outbreaks may bring bad publicity and economic losses to the almond industry, it does not prove that almonds are inherently unsafe.  Is it justified to impose these onerous regulations on an entire industry, impacting all consumers, because of two relatively small outbreaks, one of which has been traced to Paramount Farms, a giant, industrial-scale farming operation raising 70,000 of acres of nut crops, that is by no means representative of the industry as a whole?

Rule Status

The rule is set to go into effect on September 1.  The Cornucopia Institute has formally asked the USDA to re-open the regulatory proceeding to allow for additional public input and review.  Only 18 public comments-all from the almond industry-were received on the draft rule when it was open for public comment in early 2007.  Unlike consumers, retailers, or other organizations concerned with food safety, all almond handlers received a personal letter or fax from the USDA alerting them to the sterilization proposal and inviting their comments. It's time other stakeholders-consumers and retailers-have an opportunity to have their voices heard in this matter.

We urge all concerned consumers, retailers, and farmers to contact the USDA and demand that the new rule mandating "pasteurization" of almonds be re-opened for public comment and review.  Cornucopia has a comprehensive fact sheet on the almond issue on its web page, and a sample letter for interested individuals to send to the USDA can be found at http://cornucopia.org/index.php/almonds/

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cisono
post Sep 18 2007, 07:47 AM



This is ludicrous. Toxic chemicals should not be employed and almonds should not be processed this way (or using heat) at all. At least, not all of them and labelling should reflect what has been done to them.

Jeremy
post Sep 18 2007, 03:34 PM


Jeremy Dorris date='Sep 18 2007, 03:47 AM' post='1060'
This is ludicrous. Toxic chemicals should not be employed and almonds should not be processed this way (or using heat) at all. At least, not all of them and labelling should reflect what has been done to them.

danman
post Oct 17 2007, 04:09 PM


This is misleading and should not be allowed. This is a blow to consumer choice and the small farmers.

Paula Colby
post Oct 18 2007, 10:39 PM


How ironic! Will we be forced to import almonds in order to get them raw and unadulterated?

Cindy S
post Oct 19 2007, 03:24 AM


I love my raw almonds. They just won't taste the same or have the same nutritional content. I am disappointed.

InsideOut
post Oct 19 2007, 08:45 PM


QUOTE (Paula Colby @ Oct 18 2007, 04:39 PM) *
How ironic! Will we be forced to import almonds in order to get them raw and unadulterated?


If the almonds are SOLD in the us, they will require sterilization. So imported nuts will be embargoed and tested for indicator pathogens prior to release or require a hefty burden of proof from the importer of record prior to being admitted through customs.

This will add cost to imported goods and fuel used for cold storage (each shipping container has a cooling unit on it to maintain storage temperature). Pathogen issues may be made worse due to increased length of time in customs embargo.

This is poor regulation and highly prone to failure.

Worse yet, it opens up the use of irradiation beacuse it doesn't require heat processing per se...

YIKES ohmy.gif


--------------------
House centipedes feed on spiders, bedbugs, termites, cockroaches, silverfish, ants and other household pests. They kill their prey by injecting venom through their fangs.


grorganic
post Oct 19 2007, 11:32 PM


just FYI irradiation is prohibited in organics, thus organic almonds would need to be only heat pasteurized and not irradiated.

I know heat pasteurization is crap as it destroys much of the healthy parts of the nut, but it is allowable under organics, were irradiation is not. So at least the almonds arent being nuked

Again I must agree with insideout, this regulation highly prone to failure

Howard West
post Oct 20 2007, 03:22 PM


This entire issue of Pasteurization of Raw Almonds with Toxic Chemicals and Heat, then those same almonds are labled "Organic Raw Almonds," is not even legal, by my understanding of the laws for Organic Food Standards. More time must be given for the public comment period. Presently, anyone with any common sense reviewing this 'pasteurization plan,' would think the obvious, that corrupt tactics by 'Big Business' including our own government, is up to their old tricks again trying to squash Organic Agriculture competition.

rawwisdom89:11
post Feb 22 2008, 07:49 PM


I value FREEDOM! This law is taking away my choice to eat raw almonds that have not been treated with chemicals or steam.
Are we a great nation? How could we allow chemical treatment that is associated with cancer enter our almonds? Steam kills some nutrients. I for one will no longer buy almonds unless this law is reversed. I think the makers of this law are criminals for attempting to feed us with cancer causing chemicals, and destroying nutients in what used to be a super food.

diana
post Feb 23 2008, 10:36 PM


You're right, of course, but your rights are nothing compared to the riches that can be made from those cancer treatments you're blasting. In the United States of Corporatism, where our very religion is Free Marketeering (free access to brutalizing the labor pool in the name of profit), you're blaspheming.

And even beyond individual rights, at a deeper level of thought, there's the argument for what's good for us all, not just me ... but the whole community, the whole globe, interconnected as we ALL are. And that most certainly is NOT 'every worker paying for cancer epidemics while the corporate/ gov'mint elite rake in the big bucks.' Not in my idea of responsibilities and rights, it isn't!

Rather than leaning solely on laws made by men, and some women, with corporate guns to their backs, it makes the most sense for us to pick up and build -- small and local. In season, and for later just freeze or even better, dry or can it; buy from small farmers who allow you on their property to see how they conduct their business (I believe El Lechero said 'You be the inspector!') and then support 'em with all your heart and a goodly share of money, too. Are we a great nation? Not yet. My view, of course. --d

CherNJOTR
post Feb 24 2008, 12:34 AM


Just to clarify...my understanding is that almonds are now irradiated, as of earlier this year? I am sure there are no almond growers near my home, and when I found ONE ORGANIC farm (and they call us the Garden State), they will not sell retail... How do I buy imported almonds? I refuse to buy my previou brand now, until I know for sure. (Diamond)




QUOTE (diana @ Feb 23 2008, 10:36 PM) *
You're right, of course, but your rights are nothing compared to the riches that can be made from those cancer treatments you're blasting. In the United States of Corporatism, where our very religion is Free Marketeering (free access to brutalizing the labor pool in the name of profit), you're blaspheming.

And even beyond individual rights, at a deeper level of thought, there's the argument for what's good for us all, not just me ... but the whole community, the whole globe, interconnected as we ALL are. And that most certainly is NOT 'every worker paying for cancer epidemics while the corporate/ gov'mint elite rake in the big bucks.' Not in my idea of responsibilities and rights, it isn't!

Rather than leaning solely on laws made by men, and some women, with corporate guns to their backs, it makes the most sense for us to pick up and build -- small and local. In season, and for later just freeze or even better, dry or can it; buy from small farmers who allow you on their property to see how they conduct their business (I believe El Lechero said 'You be the inspector!') and then support 'em with all your heart and a goodly share of money, too. Are we a great nation? Not yet. My view, of course. --d


diana
post Feb 25 2008, 11:42 PM


Prunus dulcis 'All-in-One' is only hardy to USDA zone 8; other varieties of P. dulcis are hardy to zone 5 at least, but almonds *may* like mild winters and non-humid summers ... come to think of it, so do I, so maybe I should move to where the almonds grow best .... Anyway, I was thinking that if you had any land/ friends with land/ a community garden, you could just plant a tree or two (for pollination's sake) and grow your own. Some places note that almonds should not be planted near related fruit trees (peach, etc.). Otherwise, just get a big enough area for planting and put the peaches, apricots, plums and apple trees at the other end of the plot/block/district. We have a tiny lot, but with thought, we could grow fruit trees, I'm pretty sure. And there are other places where we could plant, and if we kept 'em up, could probably claim the harvest, too.
--diana