Federal Judge Rules Against California Almond Growers

almond photo

Photo: Scarto

In a nation where chemically modified and partially hydrogenated foods are all the rage, it's getting more and more difficult to find foods in their natural state. Well, at least almonds, according to a recent federal district court ruling against a group of California almond growers.A federal judge has rejected a challenge by fifteen California organic almond growers to halt the mandatory treatment of raw almonds as required by the Almond Board of California. The California almond growers sued the USDA to overturn recent regulations prohibiting the organic almond growers from selling almonds in their most raw state by requiring the almonds to be pasteurized either chemically or by heat treating them.

The new safety regulations came on the heels of incidents of salmonella contamination in 2001 and 2004. While the USDA could not determine the cause of the outbreaks, they did trace one outbreak back to an almond "factory farm" growing the crop on over 9,000 acres. While the regulations apply to both domestic small farmers and factory farms, the USDA rules do not apply to imported almonds.

Widespread concern over salmonella reemerged this year with the recent peanut butter fiasco. Congress introduced the Food Safety Modernization Act, in part, to deal with the growing bureaucracy that has impeded the management of our nation's food safety and the lack of communication between the FDA and the USDA.

"(Organic almond) handlers have built their businesses, in part, by marketing raw almonds to customers interested in buying food that is minimally processed, free from the use of chemicals, and not exposed to heat treatments, roasting, or other processes," the lawsuit stated.

According to Natural News, the packaging will still read raw which is also a bit deceptive. For the selective raw consumer who struggles to find truly raw foods, the possibility of reading that something is raw when it is not poses a troubling concern.

The Problems with Almond Pasteurization
The recent ruling has implications for both the raw food community and health concerned shoppers as a whole. Raw food eaters depend upon almonds for raw almond milk, raw almond "burgers," and other raw food preparations. Pasteurization of raw almonds can destroy active enzymes and diminish the vitamin content of food. Under the ruling, almond farmers will be required to treat raw almonds with propylene oxide or steam them to over 200 degrees before they can be sold to American consumers.

Almond Growing Diminishing
Foreign-grown almonds are exempt from the treatment scheme and are rapidly displacing raw domestic nuts in the marketplace. Alex recently wrote that now only 1 percent of organic almonds sold in the United States are grown domestically. People looking to buy organic raw almonds must now buy imported nuts or risk buying domestic nuts labeled "raw" despite their being processed by heat or a fumigant. This policy likely will continue to shrink the already disapearing domestic raw organic nut market.

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