“Since September 1, 2007, raw untreated California almonds have technically not been available in the United States. Controversially, California almonds labeled as “raw” are required to be steam-pasteurized or chemically treated with propylene oxide.” – source
So this one is really upsetting to me if only because they are using a word to describe a food that is simply inaccurate. Raw almonds are an item that when picked up at the grocery, you just assume that it is what is says it is, RAW, but that would be a mistake.
The USDA in its continued efforts to completely confuse the general public has decided on a definition of “raw” that companies must follow if their product is to be labelled as such. Almonds are now steam pasteurized (or sterilized) to a temprature of at least 115F, which kills not only any possible bad bacterias but also all of the known enzymes and living compounds in the nut. In some cases, the oils become carcinogenic (cancer causing) and can be very harmful in the long term on your health.
The rationale (and subsequent regulations) is based on two cases of salmonella traced to raw almonds in 2001 and 2004. More than 100 people became ill as a result of this outbreak and one person died. Now, anybody dying is not a good thing, but let’s put this into perspective. Currently, the CDC reports that over 300,000 deaths annually can be attributed to obesity (source). Compared to that, sterilizing the almonds we eat in this country when so many people would benefit from eating more of them is just irresponsible.
What to do?
As with many of the things our government does these days, there are loopholes in the very laws they created, so you can still get Real Raw Almonds, though it will take some work.
- You are well within your rights to purchase raw almonds directly from a grower. (source)
- You should also lodge complaints with the USDA letting them know how wrong this is to take a healthy natural food and turn it into a dead, potentially hurtful food.