A reader asks the following question:
“I heard that even though the label says ‘raw almonds’ they aren’t really raw?”
Please join this discussion and post your comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Here’s the answer . . .
Raw Almonds – Are They Raw?
If you purchase your almonds in a major store, no, they are not raw. Since September 1, 2007, it became illegal for 100% raw almonds to be manufactured and sold in the United States (with a couple exceptions that I’ll get to shortly).
Raw Almonds – The Change
Raw almonds are no longer allowed to be sold because of two salmonella outbreaks that were traced back to an almond grower in California. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and California Almond Board made pasteurization mandatory if there were ‘handlers’ of the almonds.
There are two main methods of pasteurizing raw almonds:
- Exposure to steam heat sufficient to raise the surface temperature of the almond kernels to about 200°F
- Insertion of the kernels into a closed chamber where they are exposed to propylene oxide gas
Raw Almond Exceptions
There were two exceptions allowed for the pasteurizing of raw almonds:
- If raw almond growers can show that their ordinary manufacturing process achieves the same minimum reduction in salmonella content.
- If raw almond growers are only selling their raw almonds directly to customers at local markets.
Raw Almonds – Health Issues
I love and highly recommend properly prepared raw almonds. Once again our government is “protecting” us rather than finding the reason two salmonella outbreaks occurred. The United States loves to treat the symptoms rather than fix the causes!
I have to assume there is nutrient loss from steam heating for pasteurization. I also have to assume there is propylene oxide residues gassing raw almonds, especially since U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified propylene oxide as a probable human carcinogen.
Raw Almonds – How to Purchase
You do have options though:
- Visit your local farmer’s market and purchase from a raw almond grower.
- Shop at a local co-op that sells raw almonds from a local grower.
- Grow your own almonds.
- Purchase from a grower who has received exemption from the mandatory processing rules.
- Order from a raw almond website.
Remember, steam heated pasteurization with propylene oxide is not allowed in the
processing of almonds if the almonds are going to be sold as certified organic.
Raw Almond Websites
There are a few great raw almond growers that provide online sales. I’m sure there are more than these, but I’ve used and been very happy with raw almonds and service from these two, so I recommend them.
Organic Pastures http://www.organicpastures.com/
Living Nutz http://www.livingnutz.com/