Why Most Raw Almonds Aren’t Raw
If you’re into raw food, you know that in order to be considered “raw,” you can’t heat up any ingredients over 118F. You can dehydrate food, soak it, blend it, and marinate it, but baking, sauteing, and steaming are out.
For raw food enthusiasts, it’s probably old news that there’s no such thing as a truly raw almond anymore, but now USDA has developed a new way to kill salmonella on almonds. Will this new method change anything from a raw food perspective?
After salmonella outbreaks linked to almonds back in 2003 and 2004 sickened 29 people, California’s Almond Board began requiring that almond producers pasteurize their almonds, heating them to 158F, to kill any potential pathogens on the nuts’ surfaces. This requirement began in 2007, and since then California almonds have not been truly raw, though almonds that have been pasteurized are still labeled as raw.
USDA recently developed a new method for treating almonds which involves hitting them with infrared heat and then hot air roasting them. While USDA is touting this new lower-energy method as more environmentally friendly, these almonds still would not be raw. In order to kill pathogens, they heat the almonds to a surface temperature of just over 280F. Heating the almonds to these high temperatures almost completely eliminates salmonella on almonds, but according to the raw food philosophy it also decreases the nuts’ vitamin and mineral content.
California produces all of the almonds sold in the U.S. and 80 percent of the almonds sold in the world. To me, a costly requirement like this seems like an overreaction to contamination that only affected 29 people, especially since it also takes away consumer choice by eliminating the option to buy raw almonds. Raw food advocates argue that salmonella comes from factory farming and what we need is to look at our food system as a whole, not put a bandaid on one symptom. What do you think about these regulations? If you could buy truly raw almonds, would you?