With consumers’ health and safety as its number one priority, the Almond Board of California (ABC)
worked with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to institute an industry-wide
pasteurization program beginning in 2007. The purpose of this program is to ensure consumers
are provided with safe, wholesome food products, free from potentially harmful levels of unsafe
bacteria that can cause illness, without compromising the almond qualities that consumers expect
Ensuring safety throughout the system
Although the US food supply is among the safest worldwide, all agricultural products (such as meat,
poultry, fruits and vegetables) are at some risk for potential pathogenic contamination. Almonds are
no exception. To minimize this risk and safeguard the health and well-being of almond consumers,
the ABC has implemented a number of proactive steps:
• ABC promotes good agricultural and manufacturing practices among almond growers and handlers.
Resources are provided on how to minimize potential contamination while growing and harvesting
almonds, and how to ensure almonds are processed, packed and sold under the most sanitary
conditions. ABC works closely with growers and processors to encourage implementation
of standardized food safety practices on the farm, in processing and manufacturing plants,
and during transport.
• To further reduce the potential for contamination and ensure consumer safety, the almond
industry, working with the USDA, developed a mandatory pasteurization program that began in
2007. Pasteurization has been proven to reduce the presence of harmful bacteria that can cause
food borne illness. Independent nutritional lab analyses commissioned by the ABC indicate that the
pasteurization processes adopted do not degrade the taste, quality or nutritional value of almonds.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with a technical review panel comprised of almond
scientific experts, are responsible for evaluating and approving the treatment processes that
demonstrate effectiveness in achieving a reduction of possible contamination in almonds while
not impacting their quality and sensory attributes. To date, FDA has approved oil roasting, dry
roasting, blanching, steam processing and propylene oxide (PPO) processes as acceptable forms
of pasteurization for almonds. Organic almonds will be pasteurized using treatments, such as
steam pasteurization, that meet the USDA Organic Program’s national standards. Other forms of
pasteurization continue to be researched, evaluated and tested. ABC worked over several years
with leading experts and weighed all perspectives and issues in developing this industry-wide
The Almond Board of California welcomes the participation of all industry members and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, marital status, religion, age, disability or political beliefs.
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ABC worked over several years with leading experts and weighed all perspectives and issues in
developing this industry-wide pasteurization plan. The process included a public comment period
after which the USDA took all comments into account before making their final decision to approve
The almond pasteurization plan became mandatory for the California almond industry on
September 1, 2007, and was implemented on a voluntary basis over the previous two years. All
almonds must be pasteurized before being sold to consumers in North America.
Approved pasteurization methods include:
• Oil roasting, dry roasting, and blanching: These traditional processes provide the necessary
reduction in harmful bacteria while providing consumers with the same product they have come to
know and love.
• Steam processing: These treatments are surface treatments only. Multiple proprietary steam
treatments are currently being utilized by the industry which meets USDA Organic Program
standards. The short bursts of steam do not impact the nutritional integrity of the almond. These
treatments do not “cook” proteins or destroy vitamins and minerals. The nutritional and sensory
characteristics of the almonds remain unchanged when treated with steam.
• Propylene Oxide (PPO) treatment: PPO is also a surface treatment which has been approved
for use on foods since 1958, and is widely used for a variety of foods such as other nuts, cocoa
powder and spices. PPO is very effective at reducing harmful bacteria on almonds and poses no
risk to consumers. In fact, PPO residue dissipates after treatment. The effectiveness and safety
of this process was revalidated in July 2006, when PPO underwent a stringent re-registration
process with the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA confirmed that PPO poses no health
risk. The treatment does not affect the nutritional and sensory characteristics of almonds.
A number of other commonly consumed foods, such as milk, juice, eggs and canned foods are
pasteurized in order to ensure safety by removing bacteria that can make consumers ill. While
almond pasteurization achieves this same safety factor, the steam and PPO processes used for
almonds are slightly different in that they only treat the surface.
Since consumers choose almonds for their taste as well as their health benefits, to augment the
government research findings the ABC has invested in independent expert and lab analyses
of pasteurized and unpasteurized almonds. As stated above, those tests reveal that there is no
degradation of the taste, quality or nutritional value of treated almonds.
With regard to labeling, the FDA regulates package labeling guidelines for all foods. The FDA has
determined that raw almonds, whether treated via the steam or PPO methods or untreated, may
be labeled raw under FDA guidelines. The ABC does not have any consumer labeling authority
over almonds or products made with almonds. Individual manufacturers and retailers determine
their own labeling practices based on FDA requirements.
* A side note from me to you. California almonds labeled as "raw" are required to be steam-pasteurized or chemically treated with propylene oxide. "Propylene oxide is a probable human carcinogen." So I advise eating almonds that are NOT exposed to PPO pasteurization.