Pasteurized Almonds – What You Need to Know
In 2007, lawmakers decided that all raw almonds sold in North America will be “pasteurized.” This hasty measure came after two salmonella outbreaks in 2001 and 2004 were traced back to raw almonds. The outbreaks were mild and at most, caused a few tummy aches. However, in typical fashion, instead of fixing the source of the problem, the powers that be felt it much simpler to degrade and chemicalize our food once more in the name of protecting consumers.
In both instances the contaminated almonds were grown by conventional farmers, not Organic farmers. In fact, no outbreaks of salmonella have ever been associated with Organic almonds. The obvious culprit indeed, was large scale mechanization. According to the Weston Price Foundation, the problem exists because of the “lack of biodiversity and the sterile farming methods used on conventional farms. On these farms few weeds or grasses grow on the floors and little sunlight reaches the floors. To the contrary, Organic farms support and encourage biodiversity with green floors in the orchards and this discourages pathogen growth.”
The fast and furious method of harvesting hundreds of acres daily isn’t helpful either. Each day the almonds are stored in large piles and covered with a tarp where they lie under the sun. The heat and moisture under these tarps create the perfect breeding ground for pathogenic growth. Yet instead of requiring conventional farmers to “clean-up” their acts, law makers didn’t want to intercede with the efficiency of modern harvesting—the quick fix once again played its heavy hand.
So What’s the Big Deal With Pasteurizing Almonds?
Through pasteurization the shelled and hulled almonds are steam treated with temperatures up to 200 degrees. Not only does this high heat kill any pathogens that are present, it destroys the value content of the nut itself. Any time a food is heated above 115 degrees, vital enzymes are depleted. The protein, calcium, phosphorus, and iron is also destroyed, basically rendering these almonds “nutritionless.” Furthermore, high heat exposure changes the bonds of the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (fats that cannot remain stable under high heat) and causes oxidation. The rancid oils become a source of free radicals, much like the toxic vegetable oils lining our grocery store shelves.
“Pasteurization” Now Includes Chemicals
It doesn’t stop here. It gets worse. The FDA has loosely changed the definition of pasteurization to mean anything that destroys bacteria (good and bad) in the food, and deemed safe so long as the smell, taste and texture is not destroyed. To avoid having to remove the label “raw” when selling almonds to consumers, the Almond Board of California (ABC), which oversees virtually all almonds grown in the U.S. and Canada decided to use another form of “pasteurization”. Instead of pasteurization through heat, they will be using propylene oxide (PPO) in a process referred to by the FDA as “terminal gas sterilization”. In case you didn’t know, PPO is a highly explosive flammable, so nasty that it was banned by both the National Hot Rod and American Motorcycle Racing Associations.
Heat-treated almonds are one thing, but almonds treated with a racing fuel compound?? This can’t be safe. Yet apparently it is according to the EPA. In fact, the president and CEO of the ABC gave verbal confirmation to the Organic Consumers Association that the EPA had tested propylene oxide and found it to be safe. Yes, seriously! Google propylene oxide and see what you find. At this point it can only be assumed that deceptive labeling and consumer ignorance has allowed this to happen. It is highly unlikely that even the most devout junk food addict would eat food with a label that stated, “Treated with a toxic, possible carcinogen once used in racing fuel.”
There’s even more disturbing news. Apparently the almond industry will not be advising consumers which nuts are steam treated and which ones got the PPO. Not good for those of us wishing to avoid ingesting fumigants like hot rod fuel. The best case scenario here is to go Organic. Thanks to the Organic Standards almonds grown on Organic farms will be spared the “terminal gas sterilization.” You can rest at ease that you won’t be consuming flammable compounds, but you will be consuming a largely degraded, enzyme deficient food. You see, the FDA, USDA and the ABC feel it’s perfectly fine to pass-off pasteurized almonds, both conventional and organic, as raw.
This applies to almond milk, almond butter, almond flour and the plethora of other products that contain almonds.
What Are Almond Lovers To Do?
If you are an almond aficionado, or simply enjoy a handful of almonds from time to time your are in luck! Fortunately, there are still many sources of purely raw, untreated almonds. You just have to do your homework. Many websites have sourced raw almonds from other countries, namely Italy, and the prices are comparable, if not better than the knock-off organic “raw” almonds sold in stores. Live Superfoods and Living Nutz are our favorite. The most cost efficient way to purchase them, is to buy in bulk and store in your freezer.