In an article titled, "Almond Board pasteurization plan in final comment stage," published today, Cary Blake writes for the Western Farm Press:

pasteurization prevents Salmonella contamination of almondsAfter two-years of research and consultation across California’s almond industry, the Almond Board of California’s “action plan” creating a mandatory pasteurization program to eliminate any salmonella bacteria in California almonds is now in the final public comment phase.

The ABC’s voluntarily developed plan would modify the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s grower-initiated almond federal marketing order. Submitted to the USDA, the proposed rule was published in the Dec. 6, 2006 issue of the Federal Register. A 45-day public comment period on the rule ends on Jan. 22. A 60-day public comment period on the information collection associated with the rule ends on Feb. 5.

Hundreds of consumers across the country may have been sickened in early 2004 by salmonella linked to almonds packaged by Paramount Farms in California and sold by Costco warehouses and other stores nationwide.  Marler Clark represented over a dozen people who became ill with Salmonella poisoning after eating the Salmonella-contaminated almonds

The company recalled 13 million pounds of its packaged almonds after health officials reported 25 cases of Salmonella poisoning traced to the product. Health officials believe far more people have fallen ill, but that their illnesses were not linked officially to the almonds. Paramount had not pasteurized its raw almonds, but began using a gas pasteurizing process following the outbreak.

Almond Board of California’s proposal to create a mandatory pasteurization program to eliminate the potential for salmonella bacteria in California almonds is one step closer to reality.

After two years of research and consultation involving California’s annual $2.5 billion almond industry, the plan is designed to negate future chances of California almond-caused salmonella outbreaks.

For handlers who are shipping raw almonds directly into consumer channels whether to a retailer or a manufacturer who repacks them, the almonds must be pasteurized before leaving the handling facility.

Two exceptions would exist: unpasteurized almonds shipped directly to a manufacturer in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico with the manufacturer having submitted an application and qualified for direct verifiable user status by the Almond Board; and unpasteurized almonds shipped to other export markets. Cartons, bins, and boxes would require unpasteurized labeling under the exceptions.

The ABC will conduct compliance visits with additional help by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s inspection service.