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Pasteurized almonds labeled as raw

You are probably thinking, "there goes Vreni the food nazi off the deep end about something else ...!" Yeah, well maybe. And certainly for us foodies that follow the shenanigans of the food industry, it is old news that the Almond Board of California, which supplies all the almonds to the US and Canada, will begin "pasteurizing" almonds in September 2007. There are three issues here.
  1. Pasteurization not only kills the micro-organisms in the nut, but also the nut itself. A nut is a seed, and if you plant it, it will grow - it has life-force. Cooking the nut kills the life-force, so if you plant it it will not grow. The enzymes that make the seed viable also help our bodies digest it. Furthermore, heating the nut destroys those delicate polyunsaturated fatty acids in them, making them rancid, and therefore what was once a nutritious food now becomes at best questionable, at worst, harmful.
  2. The FDA is considering changing the definition of the word "pasteurization" to mean anything that destroys the life in a food. For example, the public does not purchase much food that is labeled "irradiated", so if this rule-change goes through, irradiated food may be labeled as "pasteurized", as long as it does not change the smell, taste or texture of a food, making it more appealing to the unsuspecting consumer. The Almond Board of California has decided to "pasteurize" the almonds by either steaming them or using a chemical compound called propylene oxide. I don't know about you, but after reading that propylene oxide is a highly explosive possibly carcinogenic chemical that is now even banned in racing fuel, I am sure I don't want my almonds that I am going to eat to be doused in it!
  3. Furthermore, the FDA will allow the Almond Board of California to label these "pasteurized" almonds as "raw", so as consumers, our choice is taken away from us. The label will be completely wrong, with the goal of confusing the consumer, which in my mind is criminal. All almonds in North America, will be pasteurized according to this law, (organic through steaming, non-organic either steaming or chemically sterilized - no way to know which), so when you go to any store in North America to buy raw almonds, you will not be getting the real thing. So, plant an almond tree or order your almonds from a source that gets them from Europe (you can order real raw almonds here - www.realrawfood.com.
Hopefully if enough people fight this, we can convince the Almond Board and the USDA not to do this. Please send a letter and protest!

Why do they suddenly want to "pasteurize" almonds? In the name of food safety, they claim. There were two cases of salmonella from almonds grown conventionally before 2004, and I don't believe there were any cases ever from organic almond farms. The biggest reason foods are pasteurized is to lengthen shelf life, which increases sales. The more "dead" the food is, the longer it will take to spoil, the more chance there is to sell it. But sterilized food has less nutrition, not to mention no bacteria to help up build our immune system. And if now they can call irradiation and chemical sterilization "pasteurization" as well, then we must also be worried about potential toxin exposure when we purchase pasteurized foods.

I also found out last month , much to my dismay, that pretty much all other nuts and seeds, with the exception of walnuts, are already heat processed and sold as raw. Cashews are boiled for six hours, pistachios are heat treated to shell them, brazil nuts are heated, and there really is no such thing as a raw sesame seed ... And all this time I've been buying them "raw", carefully soaking them to increase their digestibility, drying them at low temperatures to prevent any oxidation, and now I find out they have been dead all along! I just don't think it is fair that as consumers we are being purposefully deceived by the labels. If the label says "raw" I expect it to be raw! We already have to go way out of our way to seek out healthy food, and to be able to choose appropriately we must be able to rely on accurate labels. Slowly, bit by bit, our choice of healthy, viable food is diminishing, either through its governed absence (selling raw dairy in Canada is illegal), or by deceptive labeling as in this nut example. The only consequence that is possible with forced poor-quality food, is poor health.

Related Tips
Food - our raw material
The hygiene hypothesis
It's not what you eat but what you digest that counts

Online at Almond Board of California
Online at Mandatory Almond Pasteurization Weston A. Price Foundation
Online at Food Scam: Almond Board of California to falsely label pasteurized almonds as "raw" Newstarget.com
Online at the Cornicopia Institute Almond Fact Sheet
Koenig A. et al. Immunological factors in human milk: the effects of gestational age and pasteurization J. Hum Lact 2005 Nov. 21(4): 439-43
Gaya P. et al. Proteolysis during the ripening of Manchego cheese made from raw or pasteurized ewe's milk; seasonal variation J. Dairy Res. 2005 Aug. 72(3): 287-95
Silva FV, Gibbs P. Target selection in designing pasteurization processes for shelf-stable high-acid fruit products Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2004:44(5): 353-60
Dos Anjos F. et al. Gamma-glutamytransferase as a marker for the pasteurization of raw milk J Food Prot 1998 Aug. 61(8): 1057-59.

Copyright 2007 Vreni Gurd