California Almond Growers Sue Over Controversial Raw Almond Treatment
Fifteen almond growers and nut handlers filed a suit against the USDA over a legally mandated treatment of California-grown raw almonds. They growers hope to repeal the mandate. A year ago, the USDA issued a requirement that raw almonds be steam treated or sprayed with propylene oxide (a carcinogen recognized by the EPA) before making their way onto the market. More on the health and market implications of the almond pasteurization requirement below the fold.
US Grown Organic Almonds Disappearing
The USDA's almond pasteurization mandate came after two salmonella breakouts from the crop in the last decade. While the USDA could not find the overall reason for the outbreaks, they did trace one outbreak back to an almond "factory farm" growing the crop on over 9,000 acres.
Instead of only requiring the pasteurization and safer practices at large scale almond farms, the USDA mandates small-scale and family do so as well. As a result, the organic and raw almond business in the States has more or less disappeared. Now only 1% of organic almonds are grown in the US. People looking to buy organic, raw almonds now must buy nuts from abroad or are buying nuts labeled "raw" despite being processed by heat or the fumigant.
The lawsuit contends that the USDA has overstepped their boundaries as a regulatory system whose authority is limited to dirt and mold on, and appearance of almonds. They are also required to gauge public input on a mandate like the one they imposed in 2007, an action they failed to take.
Not only is the organic almond business further marginalized with the regulation, consumers are also frustrated with the USDA's move: "For those of us who are interested in eating fresh and wholesome food the USDA's plan, to protect the largest corporate agribusinesses against liability, amounts to the adulteration of our food supply," said Jill Richardson, a consumer activist and blogger, quoted by The Cornucopia Institute.