According to the lax rules applied to retail labeling of almonds, I could say these are gold-plated and likely no one will argue.
Many of you are aware of the legislature passed in 2007 by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) with assistance from the California Almond Board.
This law states that all almonds sold retail in the U.S. must be pasteurized and was created to stop salmonella contamination that was found in two batches of almonds in 2001 and 2004.
When the legislature was first on the table, there was a lot of outcry from those of us who want our food in its more natural, raw state – which of course is unpasteurized.
Today, the implementation and interpretation of the law still causes a lot of confusion, which is why I’m writing this four years after the fact.
One of the biggest questions that we get in our Helpdesk and on the blog is this… “Are raw almonds really raw?”
In 99% of the cases, the answer is “no.”
Companies are able to label their almonds raw if they are pasteurized. So when you go to the grocery store and look at the almond labels, you are blatantly being lied to.
This is the equivalent of labeling something “Kosher” that is not Kosher, or using the “Organic” label when only 70% of the ingredients are organic (this is allowed, by the way…)
It’s pure deception.
The same type of deception goes on with many “Fat Free” products. You’ve seen them.
How can an oil based cooking spray be fat free? It’s made of oil.
The trick is fudging the numbers. If a serving size has less than .5 grams of fat, the product can be labeled “Fat Free.” I love looking at the labels of these sprays. One serving size = 0.333 of a spray. Try measuring that.
The same has happened with almonds and it’s still leaving consumers confused.
Raw almond butter is not raw, but can be labeled as “raw.”
Raw almonds are not raw, but are labeled as “raw.”
I’ve mentioned this before, but a few years ago, I called the Maranatha Company – which produces nut butters – and asked them if their raw almond butter was truly raw. The person on the other end of the line proclaimed, “yes! Our raw almond butter is made with raw, pasteurized almonds.”
Raw, PASTEURIZED almonds.
If you remove yourself from the emotion of the issue, it’s actually good material for a comedy routine.
But unfortunately, there are passionate people like us who don’t think this type of misleading, false advertising is funny.
I, frankly, think it’s illegal.
But who’s going to police the police?
Raw Almonds Can Be Shipped to Other Countries, So Are We Putting Them in Danger Too?
One of the biggest brainteasers about the last four years of almond regulation is that growers from the U.S. can ship unpasteurized almonds outside of the U.S. without any need to gas or steam them (these are the two processes of pasteurization) as long as they’re clearly labeled “Unpasteurized.”
If actions always speak louder than words, then we can assume one of two things from this.
First, is we don’t care about the health of the other countries that buy almonds – assuming almonds are truly a danger to society, we’d be running the risk of contaminating foreign almond consumers with salmonella.
Or, second, we can conclude that almonds really aren’t contaminated – and the industry knows the two cases above were just isolated cases.
Any business owner in their right mind (or even in their wrong mind), does not want to have a contaminated product. It’s bad for business – let alone the people who purchase it, even if they are overseas.
So my guess, is that contamination of almonds really isn’t that big of a deal. Otherwise, the almonds leaving the country would, in fact, be pasteurized.
Raw Almonds Can’t Be The Problem
If almonds were the issue, and were really a threat to human health, then all almonds that are sold in the U.S. would have to be pasteurized.
But here’s thing.
Really raw almonds can be sold in the U.S. by retail outlets – as long as they’re not grown in the U.S.
You can buy unpasteurized, raw almonds from Italy at your local store (be prepared to pay!) and no one seems to care if they’ve been regulated or not.
Farmers in California can also sell unpasteurized almonds direct to the consumer (which we’ve been able to work out a deal for you as well here: buy raw almonds.)
This means, simply by action, that almonds are – again – not the issue or the reason this legislature was passed and continues to be enforced.
The Contaminated Almonds Weren’t Even from California
What’s even more interesting is that the cases of the almond contamination that spurned the initial research and eventual legislation were not even from almonds grown in California.
The two contaminated sources were reportedly from Oregon and Canada.
Why would the California Almond Board be interested in pasteurizing their almonds when their growers aren’t the ones guilty of producing or distributing the contaminated nuts?
The Real Reason Your Almonds Aren’t Raw
Or maybe I should say “reasons.”
1. Price Control.
The California Almond Board is made up of industry growers and sellers.
Their interest is to sell as many almonds as humanly possible. (I should say just “possible,” because if they can feed them to other animals they would and will – and probably ARE. You can reference corn for explanation on this topic.)
Their interest is to keep the cost of California almonds as high as possible, but not too high to damage sales.
When other states or other countries get in the game who may be able to grow and sell almonds cheaper, the California growers see their livelihood threatened.
I’m not an expert in the economics of farming in Oregon, nor Canada (where salmonella contamination was found), but I’m almost positive you’ll find that these places were able to be competitive with the pricing of California growers and that spiked interest in finding a way to shut them down, or at least make it more difficult for them to sell their product.
The salmonella outbreaks were a good opportunity to even out the playing field and control pricing.
Some of you may be saying that this is a pretty crazy assumption, but it’s based on some real evidence. Some that is glaring, like the fact that can we still buy imported almonds that are unpasteurized and buy direct from California farmers (no more than 100 lbs a day per customer.)
If this was a serious concern, these exceptions would not exist.
The reason why the importation of raw almonds is allowed is because the price of these imported almonds is so much more than domestic almonds, it doesn’t matter if they’re pasteurized or not, they don’t compete in price with the domestic product.
The reason why the small farmer is allowed to sell under 100 pounds direct to the consumer is because the Board was never interested in shutting down the little California growers, they wanted to control the larger production in other states – basically keep the business in the state.
So by making it harder to sell almonds (and more expensive), The California Almond Board (read: growers and distributors) made it more favorable for California to grow and sell more almonds.
2. Elimination of Competition.
This price control process also works to eliminate the competition.
Those growers in the California Almond Board have the ability and resources to pool services – such as pasteurization.
This organized industry group (or mastermind) is able to give growers access to processing that is cheaper than if a grower was working independently.
This happens all the time in industry.
If you wanted to buy 500 widgets from China, you’d have to pay $500 or $1.00 a piece.
If you were a member of a China Trade Board (a fictional widget buying industry group) and you know Sally – also a member) wanted to buy 500 widgets as well, you’d contact her and see if you can get a discount by consolidating both orders.
This process allows you to save in two ways. First, you’d say to Lee in China, “can we get a price break at 1000 widgets.” Lee would say, “sure, I can give them to you at $0.75 a piece.”
Second, you’d save money buy shipping all the widgets in the same carton.
An organized group of growers like the California almond growers certainly have this purchasing and processing power.
(They had enough power to pass a law, so I’m sure they can figure out how to cheapen the pasteurization process.)
Independent farms in Oregon or Canada – or anywhere else – likely don’t benefit from this industry fraternity.
This means their pricing, because of the new (now old) regulations goes up more percentage-wise than their competitors in California
Basically, We’re Stuck In an Industry Turf War
This law was not created for your safety.
Spinach has been contaminated and recalled more than 2 times and it is not being pasteurized.
Meat? Countless times, and it’s still not being sold cooked.
Peanut butter – which is already pasteurized – has been recalled numerous times as well for salmonella contamination. There’s no future legislation that is pushing for double pasteurization.
What this means, is that industry can spin stories to reflect their own ulterior motive.
There is likely no spinach growers board that feels threatened enough by other growers to cause a fuss about contaminated spinach.
The meat lobby, on the other hand, is so big that they can’t be touched or forced to put out a cleaner, less contained product.
And peanut butter? Who knows. The peanut growers probably aren’t threatened either.
By creating new laws and regulations, California almond growers basically reclaimed their turf and we’re the ones who suffer.
So Where Can You Get Real Raw Almonds and What Can You Do to Change the Law?
Getting really raw almonds is easy, now that we’ve figured out how to get them to you direct from the farm.
You can order raw almonds through our store and be guaranteed they are not only really raw, but they’re some of the best tasting almonds on the planet.
We have them for sale in 1/2 pound, 2 pound and 5 pound bags. When you get more, you can get a discount in pricing.
Here’s where you can get them now…
If you want to change the law, you can do something about that too.
Living Nutz owner Seth Leaf is heading the action against this legislation to allow raw almonds to be sold again at all retail outlets.
Now is time for you to help Seth, the farmers and those who want their food to be as pure and natural as it should be.
If you want access to raw almonds and want to help assist in the legal fight, I want you to head over to the site below and sign the digital petition…
If you want, you can also contribute funds to help with the legal battle.
To wrap this all up…
We need to do a few things.
First, always question motivations. Not only in industry or the media, but also in your own life. When you understand the motivations of others, you can help determine the real issues and figure out real solutions. In the case of the Almond Growers Board, there are likely 3-5 other solutions that could lower pricing of California almonds to compete without lowering profits.
Second, don’t trust any food label. Better yet, avoid buying foods that have labels.
Third, take action if you think something is wrong. Just because there’s a law doesn’t mean it’s right. Remember Jim Crow Laws?
Fourth, if you want almonds you can trust that the ones we have are really raw. You can get them here: buy raw almonds.
Fifth, when you get the almonds make this recipe, because it is certifiably amazing:
I want to know your thoughts: Do you have the right to get raw, unpasteurized almonds?
Get Really Raw Almonds From Us!
Here’s where you can get really, raw almonds and trust that they’re unpasteurized… (save when you buy in bulk!)