Many organic growers are unhappy with the new food regulation that will mandate the pasteurization of California almonds. This rule came into play after two salmonella outbreaks were traced back to raw almonds including the Paramount Farms Salmonella outbreak.
After two outbreaks of salmonella bacteria poisoning that were traced to almonds – in 2001 and 2004 – the Almond Board of California, the industry’s trade association, proposed to the Department of Agriculture that mandatory sterilization be imposed in the name of consumer safety. The government agreed, the rule was written and was scheduled to take effect next month.
On Aug. 1, the Almond Board’s directors, fearing there was insufficient sterilization equipment and too few operators in place to treat the nuts and deliver an uninterrupted supply, petitioned for a postponement of the rule to March 1.
This week, the government denied the request, confident the deadline can be met.
The rule that was more than three years in the making – one that burnishes the almond industry’s reputation for safety or sullies the noble nut, depending upon your view – will apply to about 500 million pounds of almonds sold in the United States annually.
All the nation’s almonds, 1.3 billion pounds this year, are produced in the Central Valley. More than half are exported, and those are exempt from the pasteurization rule. Growers at farmers’ markets and those selling from roadside stands are also exempt and can sell raw, unpasteurized almonds to consumers. But the share of the crop sold in the U.S. market – to retailers and food processors, for example – is covered.