[Sca-cooks] "Raw" Almonds to be treated with steam or carcinogen banned in Europe

Sharon Gordon gordonse at one.net
Thu Sep 6 19:19:20 PDT 2007

Something to watch for when getting almonds or marzipan for feasts.  If the
fumigated almonds are used, it would be good to warn the feasters.

or this link which is not working at the moment

Fact Sheet Mandatory Sterilization of Raw Almonds In response to outbreaks
of Salmonella in 2001 and 2004 traced to raw almonds grown in California,
the Almond Board of California and the USDA have created a mandatory
programrequiring all raw almonds to be sterilized through one of several
treatment processes that the industry generously describes as
"pasteurization." The new regulation is set to take effect on September 1,
2007. The rule was sought by the Almond Board of California and finalized on
March 30, 2007. Only growers selling almonds from roadside stands will be
able to sell truly raw, nonpasteurized almonds to consumers. This new rule
is controversial for many reasons. It could force family farms out of
business, ignores the underlying systemic problems with conventional
agriculture that cause food contamination, and is upsetting to consumers
seeking organic and raw foods. The Cornucopia Institute believes that the
rule is drastic and premature, and that its implementation should be
suspended to allow time for consumers to comment to the USDA. Background The
rule is a response to two outbreaks of Salmonella poisoning, which sickened
more than 100 people in Canada in 2001 and 29 people in the U.S. and Canada
in 2004. One person died in the 2004 outbreak, and a costly lawsuit against
a major almond processor ensued. The Salmonella outbreak of 2004 was traced
to Paramount Farms, the world's largest supplier of pistachios and almonds,
although the source of the bacteria was never identified. (Salmonella is
directly associated with manure and other fecal matter). Following the last
Salmonella outbreak, the Almond Board of California (which is a marketing
order and part of the USDA) initiated an "action plan" to research
technologies and create rules that would prevent another contamination.
Under the new regulation, California almond growers will be required to
sterilize their almonds. The most common method of treating almonds is
propylene oxide fumigation. Other pasteurization methods include moist
heating, oil roasting, and blanching. Organic "raw"
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almonds will not be fumigated, but will undergo the moist heating
pasteurization process, so that they are no long raw. The mandated
pasteurization of all almonds is unnecessary and onerous for several
reasons. Questions about Safety Propylene oxide treatment of foods is banned
in the European Union and many other countries. The substance is classified
as "possibly carcinogenic to humans" by the International Agency for
Research on Cancer. The chemical is classified as "possibly" carcinogenic
only because no epidemiological studies have been conducted to assess the
long-term health effects of this chemical treatment. Propylene oxide belongs
to the so-called "radiomimetic" genotoxic chemicals group, because it
induces similar biological end-points as ionizing radiation. The chemical's
effects on food include gene mutation, DNA strand breaks, and neoplastic
cell transformation. Pasteurization by propylene oxide treatment may indeed
be carcinogenic-yet the Almond Board appears more interested in protecting
almond marketers from lawsuits rather than protecting the long-termhealth of
consumers. Another major concern is that pasteurization/sterilization may in
fact increase the risk ofSalmonella poisoning if the almonds come into
contact with these harmful bacteria along the path between processing and
the consumer. Some scientific studies indicate that eliminating all bacteria
on the surface of foods creates a sterile environment that is more likely to
facilitate the survival of harmful bacteria, like Salmonella. If almonds
come into contact with dangerous, pathogenic bacteria after pasteurization,
the likelihood that these bacteria will sicken consumers could be higher
than it would be in nonpasteurized almonds. An Unnecessary Financial Burden
for Small-Scale and Organic Farmers-Forcing Some Out of Business It is
unreasonable to require small-scale and organic farms to pay the additional
costs ofpasteurization since they were never part of the Salmonella problem.
The equipment to pasteurize almonds is very expensive. A propylene oxide
chamber costs $500,000 to $1,250,000, and a roasting line can cost as much
as $1,500,000 to $2,500,000. Smaller, family-operated handlers that buy
almonds from small, family-owned almond growers, and cater to the organic
and natural foods markets, are concerned that they will not be able to
afford such expensive equipment and will be forced out of the almond
business. In addition to the costs of the chemical and steam treatments,
more costs could be incurred by transporting the almonds to pasteurization
facilities, as well as documenting the procedures. Many small-scale farmers
sell raw almonds directly to consumers, and this additional step could be
financially burdensome. Only 5% of California almonds are sold raw,
predominantly in the natural foods marketplace. While the Almond Board
contends that small handlers may outsource pasteurization, it really means
that small handlers will become dependent upon large corporations. Small
handlers that pride themselves in getting fresh almonds to consumers quickly
may have to absorb the cost of trucking the almonds back and forth from the
pasteurization plant-adding expenses for as well
Page 3
as environmental impacts from the extra trucking (pollution/climate
impacts). All this could place them at a fatal competitive disadvantage.
Deceptive Labeling of "Raw" Almonds The new rule creates deceptive labeling.
Almonds that have been roasted or blanched will belabeled "raw," despite
having undergone heating or chemical treatments for pasteurization.
Consumers who purchase "raw" almonds may well think that those almonds are
natural and unprocessed. Moreover, there will be no label requirement to
specify what kind of pasteurization treatment was used among the many
approved methods or combination of options. For consumers who wish to avoid
propylene oxide-fumigated almonds, the only option is to purchase certified
organic almonds. Low-income consumers who cannot afford the price premium of
organics may find their options to be less than desirable: purchase almonds
treated with a potentially carcinogenic chemical, and risk the long-term
health effects, or forego almonds-an exceptionally nutritional food with
proven long-term health benefits. One alternative to this new rule would be
to allow for and clearly label unpasteurized almonds-protecting consumer
choice.The Loss of a Fresh, Nutritional Food Source The new rule has
especially outraged members of the raw foods community, who believe that
uncooked foods, or "living foods," offer substantial health benefits. While
pasteurized almonds that are not oil roasted or blanched will still
sprout-and therefore considered "living"-many raw food consumers consider
any kind of processing and heat treatment of food to be detrimental to its
inherent quality and nutritional benefits.The Rule Fails to Address the
Dangerous and Unsustainable Practices of Conventional Agriculture Many
small-scale almond growers use sustainable farming methods that encourage
biodiversity and prevent the spread of bacteria such as Salmonella. On these
farms, weeds and grasses naturally protect against pathogens, which is not
true of conventional farms. Although the Almond Board insists that all
almond growers use "good agricultural practices (GAPs)," these guidelines do
not include provisions for eliminating pesticides or increasing
biodiversity. Since organic farms are required to practice GAPs by law, and
annually file a related farm management plan and receive annual compliance
inspections, they should be exempt from the sterilization/pasteurization
requirement. Unlike milk, eggs, and meats, for which real pasteurization and
cooking offers an important protection from food-borne illness, no
scientific evidence exists to show that almonds are an inherently risky
food. While two outbreaks may bring bad publicity and economic losses to the
almond industry, it does not prove that almonds are inherently unsafe.
Practically any food, raw or processed, has some risk of causing food-borne
illness; it is unlikely that almonds are any more dangerous to consumers
than lettuce, apples, even chocolate. Is it justified to impose these
onerous regulations on an entire industry, impacting consumers, because of
two relatively small
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outbreaks, one of which has been traced to a giant, industrial-scale farming
operation, raising 70,000 of acres of nut crops, that is by no means
representative of the industry as a whole?If all almonds now require
pasteurization, what foods will be next on the list of mandatory
sterilization, heat treatment, or irradiation? This may be the first step in
a slippery slope toward a sterile food environment that protects processors
from lawsuits and facilitates industrial-scale food processing and
distribution-which is exactly the kind of environment that facilitates
bacterial contamination, but does not necessarily protect consumers from
illness, while offering few food choices to consumers who prefer raw and
unprocessed foods. Furthermore, future research undertaken by the USDA and
the Almond Board should focus on the benefits of organic and sustainable
farming in preventing Salmonella and other bacterial outbreaks-not
developing technological Band-Aids to address the root causes of unhealthy
food. Demand Proper Participation in the Rule-Making Process When the USDA
proposed the new rule in December 2006, it was published in the Federal
Register and the Administrative Procedures Act was followed, allowing the
public a 45-day comment period. To make sure the almond industry knew about
the proposal, the USDA then directly contacted-by mail or fax-the nation's
115 almond growers and handlers, inviting them to comment on the proposed
rule. While the USDA cannot be expected to individually inform all concerned
consumers, it should have considered other stakeholders. Informing
retailers, for example, who could have spread the word to consumers, would
have been a reasonable course of action. Or they could have issued a press
release that would have presumably been picked up by news and trade media
outlets. They have done this when publishing other new procedures through
rulemaking. Yet the USDA made no effort to alert stakeholders other than
those within the almond industry; as a result, consumers and retailers were
almost universally unaware of the proposed rule. Only 18 public comments
were received from the entire country-all from the almond industry! By the
time public awareness of the new rule spread, it was already too late-the
formal comment period had closed, with not a single comment from a concerned
consumer, retailer, or public interest group. Thousands of consumers and
retailers, many of them outraged after learning of the new rule, now wish to
voice their concerns on this issue. The USDA should reopen the comment
period and allow citizens-who were previously unaware of this plan-to
formally submit their comments. Contact the USDA and the Almond Growers
Board Send your comments to: Secretary Mike Johanns United States Department
of Agriculture 1400 Independence Ave SWWhitten Building - Suite 200A
Washington, D.C. 20250 Email: agsec at usda.gov
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Mike Durnado USDA 1400 Independence Avenue Southwest Washington, DC
20250-0237 phone: (202) 720-2419 fax: (202) 720-8938 Email:
Michael.Durando at usda.govKurt J. Kimmel Regional Manager, California
Marketing Field Office, Marketing Order Administration Branch, Fruit and
Vegetable Programs, AMS, USDA 2202 Monterey Street, Suite 102B Fresno, CA
93721 Email: Kurt.Kimmel at usda.gov

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