Pasteurizing Almonds: Good or Bad?
Most almonds and hazelnuts in the USA are now irradiated. Irradiation is the use of radiation to help preserve foods and kill off bacteria. This has been standard practice since 2007 when the FDA decided that all raw almonds grown in the USA must be pasteurized before sale.
The reasoning behind this decision was 2 outbreaks of salmonella that were traced back to almonds (2001 and 2004). The outbreaks were very mild and the almonds turned out to be grown by conventional farmers, not organic farmers.
But nonetheless all almonds were to be irradiated rather than practices change to prevent the repeat of a problem.
So what is wrong with pasteurizing almonds?
If you are a raw milk drinker and supporter then you already know the answer to this question. Pasteurization and heat destroy important enzymes and vitamins.
There are 4 main types of pasteurizing almonds:
- steam processing
- high heat treatment (roasting)
- highly toxic fumigation treatment with propylene oxide (PPO)
Two are the primary methods used, which are steam processing, and PPO fumigation.
Steam processing is the method used for pasteurizing organic almonds and they are heated to a temperature of 200 degrees with steam. Not only are the enzymes and vitamins destroyed but so are the bonds of the fats and the fat then oxidizes and becomes a source of free radicals.
Recent scientific studies show that heating almonds creates potentially harmful levels of acrylamide, a dangerous byproduct of the amino acid asparagine. Acrylamide is a chemical known to cause cancer, or reproductive toxicity (such as birth defects and other reproductive harm).
If your almonds are pasteurized with propylene oxide fumigation(PPO) there is much more to be concerned about. PPO is a verified carcinogen that is highly flammable, with fumes that are hazardous to a human being's personal health.
The EPA has declared PPO a carcinogenic chemical that is responsible for neurological, gastrointestinal, respiratory, and immune system dysfunctions, as well as liver disease. The European Union, Mexico and Canada have all banned the use of this toxic chemical in anything to do with our food.
Can you avoid pasteurized almonds?
You can avoid pasteurized nuts but you have to buy your almonds directly from the farmer or you have to buy organic. The other exception to this rule is nuts that are foreign imports often avoid the irradiation.
In researching I found one source at Raw Nuts and Seeds where they sell organic almonds that are not pasteurized. Nuts.com sells organic almonds from Spain that are not pasteurized. Amazon also sells some organic imported almonds that are not pasteurized.
If you live in California which is almond country you may be able to find a local farmer that will sell you nuts before they send them to be pasteurized (kind of the way some farmers will sell their raw milk before the milk truck picks it up- just don't tell anyone).