Friday, June 12, 2009

Almonds.. a long post!

I have been getting a lot of questions about almonds these days.. as I have posted in other blogs. Today I went searching for more information of the Almond Question.

First a little history.

In 2007 The Almond Board in the US decided that due to 2 events where there were almonds recalled due to salmonella contamination in the previous 5 Years . This is what they had to say:
"the industry determined that aggressive measures were necessary to prevent any other occurrences." ( all quotes are taken from the Almond Board website which can be found here ).
It was a big surprise to me to find out that neither the USDA or the FDA requested that any such measures be taken, and it was the Almond Industry themselves, that made this decision.

After deciding to take the action to pasteurize all almond ( the exceptions I will note later in this blog)... these are the criteria deemed most important :

'The ABC’s objective is that treatments must achieve a minimum 4-log reduction with no significant degradation of the sensory and quality characteristics of almonds, such as the flavor, color, texture, or skin integrity. Evaluation of technologies includes comparing pre- and post- treatment almonds to ensure that the sensory qualities are not adversely affected. '
Here is the response to the question whether all almonds need to be pasteurized

'In order to provide the assurance to consumers that the California almond industry is taking every precaution to provide the safest, highest quality almonds in the world, almond suppliers must have the certainty that all almonds reaching consumers have undergone a minimum 4-log reduction treatment. Therefore, pasteurization at the handler level is required on shipments of raw almonds with the following exemptions: (1) shipments of untreated almonds directly to approved Direct Verifiable (DV) users within North America (U.S., Canada & Mexico which must be labeled as “unpasteurized” on all bulk packaging (e.g. cartons, boxes, tote bags, etc.) and (2) shipments to export markets not within North America which must be labeled as “unpasteurized” on all bulk packaging (e.g. cartons, boxes, tote bags, etc.) . In this way all customers of California almonds, worldwide, will either receive pasteurized product or will be advised through labeling that the product they are receiving is unpasteurized and requires further treatment'

How to they treat the Almonds ?
Ok, so now you know, unless you can find almonds that are not labelled at 'unpasteurized' , that all other almonds are indeed pasteurized. The next question, is how to they do it ? Is it by steam, or heat ? This is what they had to say:
'While the Action Plan standard for treated almonds is a minimum 4-log reduction, a number of technologies have already been identified which result in a 5-log reduction – these include steam pasteurization, fumigation with propylene oxide (PPO), blanching and oil roasting.'

Organic or Commercial ?
If you purchase Organic 'natural' almonds from the bulk bins in your local health food stores, or at the grocery stores, they are still pasteurized, but instead of using the fumigation method, they are using steam. In essence, they are not raw anymore.

If you are buying commercial almonds at the bulk bins, or in packages, they are more than likely fumigated with Propylene Oxide , an already-banned-in-many-countries possible carcinogen.

Where to buy Truly Organic Almonds ?

Now, the question is where do you find truly raw almonds ? They can be purchased from the farmgate. But to me, California is a bit of a drive. I don't have a passport, or a car ! So my next thought is to buy them from a supplier who has them.

I have been buying 25 pound boxes of Organic Raw Almonds at a time. I have been getting them from a family in Naramata BC, who run a business called Real Raw Food. They are very friendly, send orders very quickly, their products are great, and, being not far from Victoria, the orders arrive in a couple of days in general. Unless I have ordered on a weekend, or Friday,then the orders usually come the next week. Which is still just a few days. I love that I don't have to worry about my shipment stuck at the border, or extra fees for customs. ( or any other extra fees). The shipping rates are very good too. (by the way, they don't know that I just wrote about them on here, and I don't have any financial ties, except for financing THEIR business in purchasing so much from them myself !)

The link to their site is

They have a large selection of foods that are raw and you can buy them in quantities from 1 pound up to an entire box. You do need to order a minimum of $ 100.00 worth of products though.

I am sure there are other sources of truly raw almonds online, and I know that there are a few more in Canada. You can search them up online and see which offers you the kind you like.

Soaking Almonds

The next part about the almonds is whether it is worthwhile in soaking almonds when they are
pasteurized anyways. I have not found any answers to that in a definitive way. It makes sense that anytime you pasteurize something you kill all the bad bacteria, but also the good, and you also kill any way for the seed to germinate, and to remove enzyme inhibitors ( which the enzymes are killed during the pasteurization process) which is one of the points of soaking them anyhow.

Some people find that pasteurized or not, soaked almonds are easier to digest, and are tastier. Not to mention big and fluffy!

The choice really is yours to make.

Making a LOCAL statement

If you want to be able to buy truly raw, natural almonds at your local stores, it may be wise to talk to the store managers telling them how important it is to you to have a local source. This makes a lot of sense to me. Buying almonds that are not fumigated nor steamed does not seem to far fetched to be able to find locally!

I know this was a long post, and I hope it answered some of your questions. I would be happy to research this more if you had any other questions about it!

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