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Organic Consumers Association

Almond ''Pasteurization'' May be Worse Than Previously Thought

You may recall an article I posted earlier this month regarding the concerns surrounding the relaxed labeling of irradiated foods, like almonds, by the FDA.

Earlier this month, I received a letter from Richard Waycott, the president and CEO of the Almond Board of California (ABC), to tell me that his organization will not use any heating or radiation to "pasteurize" their almonds. He explained that they will instead be using propylene oxide to "pasteurize" the almonds.

Mr. Waycott provides the following reassurance: "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 then called his office to see if there was anything he wanted to add to his letter, and he said that the EPA had tested propylene oxide and found it to be safe.

So now we can relax? Hardly.

Apparently, Mr. Waycott expects me to accept his propaganda without one single scientific reference to support his safety assertion. Even a simple search for propylene 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 U.S.National Hot Rod Association rules for safety reasons. It is also used in thermobaric weapons. It is an an epoxide."

The Almond Board is not using a GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) substance, safe for human ingestion, unless they are arguing it's flashed off in evaporation or heating, which also mean the almonds are NOT natural and raw. You can see the EPA site for more details.

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. No, Mr. Waycott, I don't buy your flimsy reassurances, but I do appreciate your warning of this previously unknown way that you can damage our food supply.

Personal Letter to Me From President and CEO, Almond Board of California

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