How is it that I didn’t know raw almonds aren’t really raw, especially considering that the stores selling the raw almonds label these nuts as “raw”?  Isn’t this a fraud on consumers to misrepresent a product?

In 2006, the California Almond Board, FDA, and USDA devised a plan to mandate that all almonds grown in the U.S. must be subjected to pasteurization at heats above 200 degrees starting in 2007.  The mandate comes after two salmonella scares from almonds and peanut butter that were neither organic nor raw.

In order to protect consumers, the USDA decided that almonds must be pasteurized in order to prevent any poisoning to consumers by subjecting the raw almonds to such a high heat that would kill bacteria.  Not only does is kill the bacteria, it renders the almond dead by killing all live nutrients and enzymes when heated over 118 degrees.

If you want to buy truly raw almonds you have two choices 1.)  purchase from growers directly, or 2.) purchase from foreign suppliers.  You can purchase from growers outside of the U.S. who are not subject to this ruling, which could be difficult considering the U.S. produces 80% of the world’s almonds.  Isn’t that interesting that U.S growers can no longer sell truly raw almonds through grocers, but foreign growers who are not subject to this mandate can sell their real raw almonds to U.S. citizens.  How exactly do the USDA, FDA, and California Almond Board rationalize protecting consumers when foreign growers can still sell truly raw almonds to U.S. consumers?

The point is that it does not make sense especially given the fact that no organic or raw almonds were discovered to have salmonella.

Under the Almond Marketing Order Title 7 § 981.413, U.S. almond growers can sell their truly raw almonds in roadside stands or certified farmer’s markets but not to handlers who then sell to grocery stores like Whole Foods Market.  I suppose if you really want raw almonds, you’ll have to purchase from a reliable foreign source unless you can find a store that sells them.  Or if you live in California where most almonds are produced, you can buy raw almonds on the roadside or certified farmers markets.

You can also test your almonds to see if they are truly raw:

  • Soak your almonds overnight in filtered water.
  • In the morning, drain and rinse the almonds thoroughly.
  • Test the almond by seeing if you can pull the skin off easily.  If the skin comes off easily then your almonds have been through a pasteurization process.  Raw almonds, even after soaking are tough to remove the skin.

If you decide to purchase almonds that state “raw” from local natural stores or Whole Foods Market, you are still getting an almond that is considered dead because of the heat used and it is not raw.  I suppose you could instead purchase the cheaper toasted almonds since that is dead too; however if you want to make almond milk; you’re better off using the “raw” almonds.

I also noticed that Costco has removed raw almonds from the shelves here in Seattle.  As I understand, Costo’s raw almonds were subject to fumigation with propylene glycol, a toxic chemical, which is probably why consumers stopped purchasing their almonds and they no longer carry them.

In a search to find a different source for truly raw almonds, I discovered an almond grower in the San Joaquin Valley of California called D&S Ranches.  This grower was also concerned about the effects of the almond market order on raw almonds and searched to find a method within the constraints of the market order and one that would not destroy the live enzymes inside the almond.  D&S Ranches has provided a report as to the method they have found using the H20-UN-Pasteurization method:

D&S Ranches, an Orchard Grower in the San Joaquin Valley of California, has an Important Announcement to make regarding Pasteurization of our Naturally Grown California Almonds!  After the Almond Board Rule went into effect we began to extensively research the Best, most Non-Intrusive methods available to reduce bacteria on the skin of the nut without affecting the nut meat itself.

The Good News:

The Good news is that we have found a process that does just that !  This method was developed for the Spices Food Group where any alteration or destruction of the interior of the nut or spice kernel would destroy the delicate value of the item. As it turns out we were able to get this technology approved for application on our Selma California Grown Nut Crop!

How It Works:

The process is very expensive and requires the latest in production technology. It is centered on Water Based Botanical Principles. We call this process H20-UN-Pasteurization.  The almonds are held in a chamber that draws down the air to a vacuum, so all the air born bacteria and pathogens are removed from the chamber, then a computer controlled mist of sterile distilled water dry stream is injected in to the chamber. This steam is computer controlled and balanced against the known weight of each nut. As the small amount of Steam condenses on the skin of the nut it transfers only minimal heat energy just to the surface it contacts! The nut meat is never heated internally!

After the dry steam injection, a 4 to 6 second process, the chamber is then evacuated again causing the condensed purified water to evaporate from the skin of the nut. Next the chamber is brought back to normal conditions with HEPA Filtered Air.

This process preserves the internal natural balance of enzymes, amino acids, proteins, and most importantly it preserves the natural living nature of the nut! You can sprout these Almonds!”

D&S Ranches prices look pretty reasonable and even sells bags in 1 lb, 5 lb, and 10 lb increments.

What an eye-opener this has been to discover that raw almonds at stores are not truly raw, but I’m glad to know that we can still buy direct from the growers.

*Photo courtesy of Stacy Spensley

Question:  Tell us if you purchase from an almond grower for your raw almonds and provide a link to their website.

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