USDA and Agribusiness Conspire To Mislead Consumers: ‘Raw’ Almonds Must Soon Be Steam-Heated or Treated With Toxic Chemical

CORNUCOPIA, Wis., April 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Small-scale farmers, retailers, and consumers are outraged over a new federal regulation that will require all almonds grown in California to be sterilized with various “pasteurization” techniques. The rule, which the USDA quietly developed in response to outbreaks of Salmonella in 2001 and 2004, traced to raw almonds, mandates that all almonds undergo a sterilization process that includes chemical and/or high-temperature treatments.

Although the final rule was just published in the Federal Register, The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group, is asking the USDA to reopen the proceeding for public comment. Only 18 public comments — all from the almond industry — were received on the proposal.

“The new rule is unwarranted and could have many harmful impacts,” said Mark Kastel, senior farm policy analyst at Cornucopia. “The costs of the chemical and heat treatments, in addition to the costs of transporting and recording the new procedures, will be especially onerous on small-scale and organic farmers, and could force many out of business.”

Glenn Anderson, a small-scale organic almond farmer in the central valley of California, worries that “this could be one more way for the big companies and the government to put us small farmers out of business.” The equipment to sterilize almonds is very expensive. A propylene oxide chamber costs $500,000 to $1,250,000, and a roasting line can cost as much as $1,500,000 to $2,500,000.

Consumers also worry about its impact on the quality and nutrition of pasteurized almonds, since the Almond Board of California (a marketing arm of the USDA) has conducted the only study on the practice. Their research concluded that “there was no significant degradation in the quality” of the almonds. “The validity of these findings is questionable given the vested interests of the research panel,” Kastel stated.

The most common method of sterilizing almonds is by propylene oxide fumigation. Propylene oxide is a genotoxic chemical and is listed as a possible carcinogen by the International Agency on Cancer Research and has been banned for treating food for human consumption in the European Union, Canada, Mexico, and most other countries.

More details, a fact sheet, and a sample letter concerned consumers can send to the USDA and California Almond Board, can be found on the Cornucopia Institute Website:

Source: The Cornucopia Institute