Ooh, Scary! USDA Wants to Protect Us from Raw Almonds

August 28, 2012
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AlmondsThe agency insists that even organic almonds be cooked, but doesn’t want consumers to know they aren’t raw or how they are cooked. Action Alert!

The “pasteurization” rule was introduced in 2007 in response to a string of salmonella outbreaks linked to large almond processing plants in 2001 and 2004; thirty-three people became ill, but no one died. (Contrast that to the thousands of deaths caused by prescription drugs each year!) California’s Almond Board colluded with the USDA to propose mandatory “sterilization” across the industry, and the USDA agreed to implement and enforce the new rule.

According to the Almond Board, five methods of “pasteurization” are permitted: oil roasting, dry roasting, blanching, steam processing, and the use of propylene oxide (PPO). A sixth method involved irradiating the almonds, and this was used for a number of years, but now the Almond Board states that “Almond pasteurization does not include irradiation.”

Certainly the first three methods completely cook the nuts, so they are no longer raw. Of the last two, steam causes a marked reduction in nutrient content and partially cooks the nuts, and PPO is, according to the EPA, a “probable human carcinogen.”

PPO is an extremely volatile liquid used in the production of polyurethane plastics. It was once used as a racing fuel, but was banned by both the National Hot Rod and American Motorcycle Racing Associations for being too dangerous—it’s so volatile that it is used in fuel–air bombs.

The material safety data sheet for PPO warns:

Causes gastrointestinal irritation with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. May cause central nervous system depression, characterized by excitement, followed by headache, dizziness, drowsiness, and nausea. Advanced stages may cause collapse, unconsciousness, coma and possible death due to respiratory failure. Aspiration of material into the lungs may cause chemical pneumonitis, which may be fatal….May cause reproductive and fetal effects. Laboratory experiments have resulted in mutagenic effects. May cause heritable genetic damage.

According to the EPA, acute (short-term) exposure to PPO has caused eye and respiratory tract irritation, and skin irritation and necrosis. It’s also a mild central nervous system depressant and causes inflammatory lesions of the nasal cavity, trachea, and lungs. In animal studies, PPO causes neurological effects and tumors, leading EPA to classify it as a class B2 carcinogen, and California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Massachusetts to list it on their state right-to-know registries as a known carcinogen.

So for raw almonds, your choice is to either cook them or make them potentially toxic. Steam treatments are running up to $2.5 million, whereas PPO starts at $500,000. Which do you think most farmers choose? Over 68% of almonds are treated with PPO.

Raw organic almonds not treated with PPO may be heat pasteurized with steam. But heat may oxidize the omega 3 fatty acids in almonds, potentially turning them rancid and producing free radicals, which are believed to play a role in the development of cancer and other degenerative diseases.

Even worse, there is no labeling requirement to show that almonds have been steamed or treated with PPO, so consumers are misled into thinking they are eating truly natural raw almonds when in fact they are not. Labeling is an absolute necessity for consumers to make an informed choice.

When the rule was instituted, raw and organic almond farmers were outraged and pushed back. They fought the USDA, and in 2010 a federal appeals court ruled they could challenge USDA’s almond regulation.

Now ANH-USA has submitted an Amicus Curiae brief in support of the plaintiffs (an amicus curiae, Latin for “friend of the court,” is an outsider who provides information to assist the court in making its decision). Our brief will allow ANH-USA to raise issues that may not be brought up by the plaintiffs during regular trial proceedings. It will also let us take a stand against the USDA and call attention to the public policy and public health implications of the almond rule.

Besides the aforementioned problems with the “pasteurization” process, there are serious legal concerns about the rule-making process. USDA did not go through the normal, open public hearing and comment process when issuing the almond rule. The agency contacted only 115 select almond growers and handlers—out of a total of over 6,000—to invite them to comment on the proposed rule, and consumers and retailers were almost universally unaware of the proposed rule. Only eighteen public comments were received from the entire country.

ANH-USA sees the almond rule as a slippery slope, because for the first time USDA is establishing minimum “standards” for how farm products are processed, setting a dangerous precedent for the potential sterilization of other organic agricultural products. Will they try to irradiate spinach, or will they realize the process will actually destroy the delicate product? We argue in our brief that the USDA is not a food safety agency and thus such decisions are not within their mandate.

The lack of labeling is arguably a violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act, which declares unfair or deceptive acts or practices to be unlawful. A “deceptive act” includes a “misleading omission.” Labeling steam-heated almonds as raw is intentionally misleading; and we would argue that not disclosing the fact that almonds are being treated with PPO, when the public, if they knew of the practice, would surely refuse to buy them, is extraordinarily deceptive.

Almonds have tremendous health benefits. They are an excellent source of manganese, copper, and vitamin B2 (all of which are important for the body’s energy production). Almonds are rich in magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and vitamin E, and high in health-promoting monounsaturated fatty acids and many other nutrients.

Raw almonds (with no heat applied) are particularly healthy. According to USDA data, raw almonds have more calcium, iron, potassium, fiber, manganese, and vitamin E. By insisting that raw almonds be “sterilized,” USDA is trying to take an extremely healthy food sound scary—something the public needs to be “protected” from, when actually the public may be more at risk from the chemical used to treat the nuts. Raw, organic almonds are not scary. As we point out in our brief, no salmonella outbreaks have been associated with organic almonds because they follow higher-quality processing controls. Therefore, organic raw almonds should not have been subject to the mandate in the first place.

Imported almonds are not subject to the almond rule (how is that for logic?)—so if consumers want real raw almonds, they will have to buy the imported ones. What a tragedy that our public policy is deliberately hurting the domestic market—especially small organic farmers, who need every sale they can get!

Action Alert! Tell USDA to put a hold on the almond rule at least until they open it up to public hearing and comment. Let them know that organic almonds should have been exempt from the almond rule since they already follow superior quality controls and there have been no salmonella outbreaks in connection to organic almonds. And insist that almonds that have been “treated” be labeled as such—particularly when PPO is used. Send your message to USDA today!

Take Action!

100 Responses to “Ooh, Scary! USDA Wants to Protect Us from Raw Almonds”

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  4. n. sutherland says:

    I now believe I have found out why I became violently ill after eating what I thought
    were raw almonds. The effects of PPO sound exactly what I suffered.
    I am so mad about all this, I would like to sue the places where I bought
    them which was Walgreens, their brand of “raw” almonds and also
    Blue Diamond brand also bought at Walgreens. This is disgusting.
    I will NEVER eat a raw almond, not one, again, organic or whatever.


    • Doug says:

      We must face it. We are pawns in a money game and some of the biggest money is controlled by the FDA. Why is our nation so Hell-bent upon promoting every cancer-causing element in production? Why do we exist in the 1930’s realm of cancer advances and treatment? The rest of the world is worlds ahead of us in cancer treatment and research. Could it be the $200 billion per year cancer industry? Maybe the fact that in the Obama-care era, it’s cheaper to simply allow the aged to die than to care for them. Am I being radical? Far-fetched? Paranoid? Not at all. The fact is, our FDA is possibly the most corrupted agency in government and they control an unbelievable amount of money – very quietly.


  5. Eric says:

    A few things. First, it was the California Almond Board that proposed the rule and it was accepted by the USDA. However, it only applies to almonds grown in California. Imported almonds or almonds grown in other states aren’t subject to this rule. Additionally, the rule was being opposed by small California growers not because of some belief that truly raw almonds are better, but because it cost them money. Not exactly altruistic, especially since they are hiding behind the Organic label to rally a cause instead of admitting that it impacts their bottom line.


  6. Cyn says:

    I’ve just found this article today because I was looking on the label of the “raw” almonds that I just bought. It brought me here. Since it’s been almost a year I’m wondering what the latest news on this is? Where would be a good place to find that?


  7. Irena Franchi says:

    I want to eat real raw almonds. I have the right to choose what I eat.


    • Pam says:

      According to a Democrat I heard speaking to the Congress in Jan. or Feb.
      of 2009, he was arguing that the American public does NOT have the right to decide what food they can eat. I heard it live on C-Span.


  8. Fran Switzer says:

    Label Label Label. We are able to make informed decisions when given information. I do not need any government office or grower to make my decisions. They regulation and grow as they see fit but I am the one that buys. I should be able to read labels and ingredients to know what I am buying and eating. To much big brother is NOT what we need. Honesty, information, and respect for consumers is what we need.


    • Pam says:

      Get in touch with your Congressman and your two senators and let them know this. The majority of Democrats always vote AGAINST issues dealing with food freedom.

      Unlike most Democrats, Republican Senator Rand Paul is a BIG proponent of food freedom as is the Tea Party.

      The liberal media never tell us of things like this but FOX news does.


  9. dodiejo says:

    I think the FDA/USDA knows exactly what they are doing to our food and why. “Population Control” is one thing that comes to mind. I know that sounds very extreme, these people are no dummies like a lot of us think. The FRANKENFOOD in time will make you sickly and of course you will have to go to the doctor and he will give you medicine or tell you have to go to the hospital. Hopefully you won’t die from all the unhealthy food you’ve been eating. These people have got to be stopped from messing with our food,. and soon.


  10. Louise K. Carson says:

    I used to buy raw almonds, usually organic, by the bag to eat as snacks. Hey, they were even meals sometimes! I loved them. Now I hesitate to buy them at all and think about what they have become — something other than what they were. Too bad we had to ruin another great natural food. The almond growers don’t get my business any more. Our small co-op isn’t carrying them at this time. They are probably looking for a secure source of clean, non-contaminated, uncooked almonds. Good luck.


  11. Tom Edgar says:

    Oh dear. I just go out when they are ripe on my trees, collect, shell and store them in a jar, guess I must be risking something, of which I know not, but at eighty five reckon I’ll not worry too much.

    U S D A ?? It doesn’t matter what the bureaucrats do, nor in which area, it is invariably done in pure ignorance of the subject matter, or at the behest and advice from vested interest.


  12. Ted Birnbaum says:

    Why can’t the DAMN government..YOU !!!!!!!!!!!…defend liberty instead of trampling on it. All you idiots have to do is abide by a JUST LABEL IT policy. If you mistakenly believe that raw almonds are a health risk then demand that untreated almonds be labeled as raw and untreated….and certainly if almonds are treated with the carcinogen propylene oxide or destroyed nutritionally by heat…then again demand they be labeled as such. Let the farmer and the consumer have the freedom to choose.


  13. Elaine says:

    What will they think up next. We try to eat a hand full of unsalted almonds every day, either as a snak-pak or on the breakfast cereal or on salads for lunch.


  14. Angela says:

    Unbelievable! It never ceases to amaze me the things I find wrong with our food. Our country needs to be protecting its people, not harming everyone’s health to make a profit! Other countries have banned GMO’s. Germany doesn’t even allow a lot of items from the US. A lot of our food companies too make thier products without chemicals or GMO’s for other countries. In the US there is no limit on what producers can put and/or do to the food. So many Americans have health problems and we wonder why. Companies are spending millions on the prevention of labels. They know if we are aware of this stuff…we won’t buy!


  15. Dee Cota says:

    What amazes me is that the FDA and the USDA allows GMO’s in just about every prepackaged food items, without a second thought. But the poor raw alomond has to be treated as a real danger to the health of the consumer. The so-called food label is a joke. The only recourse is to
    cook from scratch, which I have done for about 40 years. This is not a new problem with the FDA, the problem is the FDA!!!


  16. Pat Sheek says:

    I have read that raw almonds are more easily digested if soaked in saltwater overnight, just like sprouted lentils and beans. I cover 4 cups of almonds with water and 2 tablespoons iodized salt and soak overnight, then place in a cookie sheet and bake at 210 degrees until they are dried out and crisp (as much as 12 hours). They are delicious!


  17. Lou says:

    If it is now not clear that the FDA/USDA et al are deliberately despoiling our food supply it may never be.

    Lets see

    o Despoiled Food
    o Toxic Food
    o Toxic Drugs
    o Toxic Vaccines
    o Poisoned Water
    o Poisoned Air Spraying
    o Toxic Dental Procedures
    o Toxic Medical “Testing”

    How are you supposed to get healthy in this environment?

    Avoid all the above as best you can.



  18. Les Peterson, D.C. says:

    Here we go again. Another food item or process we are not allowed to know about. Has some favored individual produced a novel patent-worthy pasteurization algorithm or device, and is waiting in the side lines for the agency to “prepare the field with this farce? Or is this simply the Peter Principle at work?


  19. Patrick Monk. RN. says:

    But they don’t want to protect us from Genetically Modified Foods and the highly toxic pesticides and fertilizers required to ‘manufacture’ them.
    Support California’s PROPOSITION 37 demanding that GM foods be labeled as such.
    Thank you.
    Patrick Monk.RN. SF. Ca. USA.


    • Jeff Fabbri says:

      Boy, what a rough group. As a producer of both organic and conventionally grown almonds and grapes, we are on the front lines of all the regulatory, economical, legal, and practical/financial challenges of supplying food to the consumer. We feel that the consumer is always right, so raw almonds should be made available to those willing to take the risk of bacterial contamination. All food, if it is produced outside of a greenhouse setting, is subject to environmental risk factors, some of those come in the form of bacteria coming from the feces of vectors such as natural avian birds of prey or small seed eating birds which eat natural weeds groing on the outside of or within fields. Other vertebrates, such as gophers, mice or rats can frequent fields for food and can also contaminate food as it is growing or during harvesting. All of these can cause some sort of risk factors for contamination, no matter how consciencious a farmer may be or what type or production system he/she may utilize. As a producer, we are probably in your “agribusiness pig” label. However, we would urge folks to get to know the issues from our vantage point, and in turn we will try to understand them from yours as well. That usually makes a better environment for progesss than the mostly militant language I see here. You may want to try to actually get to know a farmer, we are not all as bad as it seems you think we are. We have kids too, we live in the environment we grow the crops in, and have the most risk if things aren’t tended to properly. We vote for raw almonds being made available to those of you who think that is the best choice for them. We don’t want you to sue us if you get sick from that choice if we have no control over that risk. Please be mindful that you take more risk of getting sick from a stray bird’s droppings, than if you buy conventionally treated product, but it should be your choice.


      • Lucille Gherardini says:

        Guess I missed the negative remarks. Seeing the FDA or any other govt. agency initials does not give me any confidence that it will be good for me. Pastuerizing any food takes nutrition from the food. It amazes me that when I was a kid the farmers didn’ have their hands tied by the govenment and there wasn’t all the illness’ there is now. The government should get out of bed with big Pharma &Agri and we would all be better off. The best they could do for us give us a CHOICE by putting labels on the food that has their toxins. They should Quit messing around with Mother Nature!
        Thank you for what you are trying to do.


  20. Marguerite De Santis says:

    I am Vegan and Raw Almonds have a MAJOR part of my diet Please consider this fact Thank You


  21. Linda Seaton says:

    I insist that almonds that have been “treated” be labeled as such—particularly when PPO is used. Organic almonds should have been exempt from the almond rule since they already follow superior quality controls and there have been no salmonella outbreaks in connection to organic almonds.


  22. Kathi says:

    I use raw organic almonds daily (in pieces, whole, flour and slivered) for their health benefits, their ability to help me stabilize my blood sugars, for the alkalizing effect on my body and just because they taste good. Now I find out from this information my raw almonds may never have even been raw. Also, I happen to be very sensitive to metal allergies so I source out all of my products every day before purchase to confirm the where and what type of metals, chemicals etc. may have come into contact with them. I have spent the last 8 months trying to find what and where I am currently having problems with in regards to my allergies. Even though this may be my answer, what gives this federal agency the right to outright lie to me as a general consumer and inform me my raw product may not be raw before retail/wholesale sale. When I purchase a product labeled raw, I expect to be receiving a RAW product, not some federally mandated imperfection.


  23. Roger Fuller says:

    August 29, 2012
    Dear ANH-USA:
    In view of the 2001 and 2004 salmonella outbreaks from large almond processors; USDA should simply have required better sanitation procedures in the collection, processing, and storage of raw almonds. This stupid, criminal, and dangerous ” pasteurization ” demand, especially with propylene oxide and/or nuclear irradiation as well as the other heat methods, should be absolutely outlawed. The trouble with this petition is that we, the food consumers, are groveling to the criminal USDA that we already know is infested with criminal Agribusiness Pigs, completely illegally, and they should be thrown completely out of that department as well as the FDA. Since they are trying to make our raw almonds even more dangerous than they already are, why not press Federal Criminal Charges against the USDA for creating a reckless, criminal danger to the Public Food Supply and then aggravating that danger with an even more criminal act of not labeling the chemical ( PPO ) or thermal damage done to the almonds.
    In light of this as well as the other major criminal act of genetically engineering the USA Public Food Supply, once we convict these USDA and FDA criminals in Federal Court , they should be sent to a security level # 6 Federal Penitentiary . That would be in Florence, Colorado. Of course there are so many GE food collaborators they will probably have to build a special prison for all of them.
    yours truly,
    Roger Fuller


  24. Pau.l Nitsch says:

    Such insanity. Humans have been eating raw almonds since the beginning of the Garden of Eden with great benefit to their health. Is civilization loosing all common sense?


  25. Sandy Till says:

    Your efforts could be healing and feeding our people.


  26. FDA seems to be just a tool of the Agribusiness and Big Pharma to keep standards low and prevent people from protecting their health with natural foods and nutritional supplements. If imported almonds are not cooked, then the purpose here is not to protect the health of consumers. It is anticompetitive.


  27. Abernathy says:

    May as well be Monsanto, for all the evil this promotes….


  28. USDA, put an hold on your almonds rules ,organic almonds should have been exempt from your rules


  29. Dawn Raczka says:

    We are living in a society where we are poisoning our bodies with chemicals and each generation is becoming sicker and sicker! Stop the madness by trying to control food with unhealthy practices. Natural is best for the body it’s been said over and over again. Getting rid of all the nutrients by pasteurizing almonds or adding chemicals is not what our bodies need. The decision to eat Raw almonds should be left up to the consumer! Not before they are bought and unaware of what they are putting into their bodies.


  30. sandra downing says:

    i am sorry to say i won’t be buying almonds anymore. i like walnuts and they are a good source of most of the nutrients in almonds, plus a couple more goodies for the body – that is, unless i learn that walnuts are being “treated”, too. then it will come to finding someone with a pecan tree and making arrangements to buy from them.


  31. Midge Marino says:

    Tell USDA to put a hold on the almond rule at least until they open it up to public hearing and comment. Let them know that organic almonds should have been exempt from the almond rule since they already follow superior quality controls and there have been no salmonella outbreaks in connection to organic almonds. And insist that almonds that have been “treated” be labeled as such—particularly when PPO is used


  32. Suzanne Goodemote says:

    Dear USDA Friends,

    If no deaths have occurred from raw almonds, why pasteurize? Please consider allowing the consumer to eat raw almonds that have not been pasteurized; this is the best way to retain nutrients in diets that are already lacking nutrition and produce consumers that are health compromised as a result.

    Thank you,
    Suzanne Goodemote


  33. Suzanne Goodemote says:

    Dear USDA Friends,

    If no deaths have occurred from raw almonds, why pasteurize? If it is in the best interests of the consumer to pasturize, it is only fair to label method used so we can make our own choice of what type of pasteurized almonds to consume. Please consider allowing the consumer to eat raw almonds that have not been pasteurized; this is the best way to retain nutrients in diets that are already lacking nutrition and produce consumers that are health compromised as a result.

    Thank you,
    Suzanne Goodemote


  34. georgia carman says:

    Why is the FDA making rulings which do not improve the health of people? Why are they wasting their time on items which are already “safe”, and not spending their time on products coming from China, which have been proven to contain carcinogens and radioactive materials and poisons, and worse, and why are they not “taking care of” items already in the US like the famous “peanut butter” killer of the past. These products and our own produce need to be monitored. Meats, beef, chicken, turkey and egg products need to be monitored more closely. The lack of cleanliness and care of animals during their life, and the killing and processing need to be more closely supervised. Our greens need to be at optimal nutrition, without salmonella or other sickening problems, our vegetables, and flours need to be safe from adulteration, including not having unknown GMO’s in our food and drink products. The FDA has plenty of bonifide problems which need their attention without them attacking a product which is already at optimal state for consumption and human use. I have a dear friend who lost her daughter during the peanut fiasco and I consider that even murder, as the company knew their product was contaminated and could be fatal to consumers. Where was FDA then? It was a lengthy and painful death for this young person. georgia carman ps. I am sending emails to other government officials.


  35. eliel starbright says:

    Come on leave raw almonds alone!


  36. Frank Apostol says:

    To Whom it May Concern:
    This particular communication from Aliance for Natural Health points out the three things that I have found to be characteristic of federal agencies: 1. The prostitution of the powers of the members of the agency, or, 2. The extreme stupidity of the agency members,or,3. A combination of #s 1. and 2.

    Corruption in our legislative bodies, both state and federal, and among our various agencies appears to have no boundaries.

    God help us!


  37. kevin streitwieser says:

    I could not tell from your article about raw almonds if this FDA guideline is in effect now or not. So the basic question is are raw organic almonds from the USA say that you buy in a store like Trader Joes treated or not at this time. Please respond I will make a donation to Alliance for natural health. this is is important to me I eat a lot of organic raw almonds. thank you sincerely Kevin Streitwieser THE FDA IS OUTRAGEOUS.


    • Alexis says:

      Here’s a link to an amazing company http://www.livingnutz.com/faqs/ … From what I know ALL ALMONDS IN THE USA are NOT RAW!!! … Some stores are importing from Spain and Italy, so your nuts MAY BE from those countries AND some almond growers in Northern CA are making them “somewhat” available to small consumer purchases!!!!

      Hope this helps, I personally don’t buy any nuts that are raw and organic (almonds) from anyone unless I know they’re from Italy or Spain!!!

      ~ Alexis


  38. James Merritt says:

    To me this potential action by the USDA proves that it is run by either the incompent–I’ve been a chemist since graduating from UCSD in La Jolla, Ca. in 1969 with a degree focusing on ORGANIC chemistry— OR alternatively, the USDA is run by the insane! PLEASE stop the USDA from implementing this INSANE idea to protect us when it will NOT!


  39. Linda Norlin says:

    Put a hold on the almond rule until you have the facts. Organic almonds should be exempt.


  40. Desmond Phillips ND says:

    It’s really sad to hear and to know that this is happening. It was intended by the Creator that seeds particularly stay healthy and alive in their raw state but when they are steamed or worse yet treated with highly toxic chemicals they become a danger to the people. When they are raw they possess all their health giving benefits including their valuable live enzymes. I trust that better sense will prevail when this issue comes to court or before the people.


  41. R. Cherney says:

    Thank YOU for the truckload of info on almonds, USDA and the threat to small organic growers, and those who depend on an untainted, raw, organic crop of almonds each year. Extending the ‘kill almonds’ rule to small organic producers is dire. What more can we do to fight this off? Due to a series of unfortunate environmentally devastating ‘mishaps’ in my early years, I suffer from a number of compromising health conditions and have worked hard to overcome and/or cope with damages done to my health early on. Raw, untreated, organic almonds are my PRIMARY source of daily protein – the only protein I am not allergic to. Raw, untreated, organic almonds, eaten on a daily basis, are known to prevent some cancers. They are THE single most valuable food source nut or seed known to humans. The exception for small organic almond farmers to NOT treat, kill, or compromise the integrity of the almonds MUST be preserved. Thank you!


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