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The Truth About California Almonds
Virtually 100 percent of the almonds consumed in the United States and Canada come from California. Did you know that there is a mandatory program in place requiring all California almonds to be sterilized? While there are three different treatment methods available, the method most commonly used to treat raw almonds involves fumigation; spraying the almonds with propylene oxide, a carcinogen recognized by the EPA.
These regulations were put into effect in the last five years in response to two separate outbreaks of Salmonella poisoning, which caused over 130 people in Canada and the US to become ill between 2001 and 2004. In 2004, one person died from Salmonella poisoning and a major almond processor was hit with a costly lawsuit.
There are currently three approved pasteurization methods:
- Propylene Oxide (PPO) fumigation: A chemical treatment which reduces harmful bacteria, and according to the Almond Board, poses no risk to consumers. PPO was once used as a racing fuel, but that usage is now prohibited for safety reasons.
- Steam processing: Short bursts of steam are used to sterilize the surface of the almonds. Organic almonds are processed using this method, however, they can no longer be considered raw.
- Oil roasting, dry roasting or blanching: These processes provide the necessary reduction in harmful bacteria.
There are no labelling requirements in place to specify which type of treatment was used. If you want to avoid fumigated almonds, you have a three options available:
- Buy roasted or blanched almonds: Although there is no guarantee they were not pretreated with PPO.
- Buy organic almonds: Fumigation with PPO is not an approved treatment for organic almonds.
- Buy imported raw almonds: Raw almonds need to be imported from Europe where raw almonds do not require sterilization.