Yes, Raw Almonds Still Aren’t Raw (Why The Almond Pasteurization Laws Are Still Fishy 4 Years Later) : Renegade Health Exclusive Article

Wednesday Mar 30 | BY |
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raw unpasteurized almonds
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

It’s true.

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!)

Live Awesome!

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Thomas says:

    Here’s a great picture of a “raw organic almond stand” near Chico:

    These people explain the difference between “Nonpareil” and “Carmel” almonds:

    The ones in your photo might be Carmel.

  2. hyesun says:

    definitely!!!!!!!!!!!! i’ve signed the petition.

    on another note, i’m trying to pass this important message about fukushima to as many people as possible. it’s by dr. emoto. i got it in an email today. hope it’s ok that i’m posting this on your blog:

    A letter from Dr Masaru Emoto…

    To All People Around the World,

    Please send your prayers of love and gratitude to water at the nuclear plants in Fukushima, Japan!

    By the massive earthquakes of Magnitude 9 and surreal massive tsunamis, more than 10,000 people are still missing…even now… It has been 16 days already since the disaster happened. What makes it worse is that water at the reactors of Fukushima Nuclear Plants started to leak, and it’s contaminating the ocean, air and water molecules of surrounding areas.

    Human wisdom has not been able to do much to solve the problem, but we are only trying to cool down the anger of radioactive materials in the reactors by discharging water to them.

    Is there really nothing else to do?

    I think there is. During over twenty year research of hado measuring and water crystal photographic technology, I have been witnessing that water can turn positive when it receives pure vibration of human prayer no matter how far away it is.

    Energy formula of Albert Einstein, E=MC2 really means that Energy = number of people and the square of people’s consciousness.

    Now is the time to understand the true meaning. Let us all join the prayer ceremony as fellow citizens of the planet earth. I would like to ask all people, not just in Japan, but all around the world to please help us to find a way out the crisis of this planet!!
    The prayer procedure is as follows.

    Day and Time:
    March 31st, 2011 (Thursday)
    12:00 noon in each time zone

    Please say the following phrase:
    “The water of Fukushima Nuclear Plant,
    we are sorry to make you suffer.
    Please forgive us. We thank you, and we love you.”

    Please say it aloud or in your mind. Repeat it three times as you put your hands together in a prayer position. Please offer your sincere prayer.

    Thank you very much from my heart.

    With love and gratitude,
    Masaru Emoto
    Messenger of Water

  3. Alice says:

    I’ve just written an email to the Almond board of Australia asking about our locally grown raw almonds,whether they have to be pasturised before sale here, I am interested for their reply,as almonds are my main nut food!
    Especialy since finding out about cashews not being raw .

    Thanks Kevin and AnnMarie,what a great article!
    Signing the petition now!

  4. Ken says:

    First off, I’m a big fan of what you’re trying to do with RH and truly appreciate all the information I’ve learned from your site.

    I understand the value of raw foods. But what isn’t clear from your write up is what the health implication is of the non-raw almonds on the market in CA that claim to be raw. Many of the ones I’ve seen say they’re only flash steam pasteurized but also state that they still sprout when soaked. If this is true, it seems to me that they’re still pretty raw, though may not meet a strict technical definition of the word. So is this just an issue of principle or is there a quantifiable decrease in the nutritional value in CA almonds?

    Secondly, you suggest that people who advertise such products as raw are intentionally breaking the law and using false advertising to entice people to buy their products. That’s a pretty strong claim to be making broadly. Yet wouldn’t you and/or the CA farmer with whom you have a “deal” also be intentionally breaking the law by selling truly raw almonds in CA? Clearly the law requiring pasteurization doesn’t make sense but until we change it, its still the law right? Perhaps I’m just a man of principle too.

    Thanks for considering my thoughts on this.

  5. Rose Vasile says:

    Thanks for the info about almonds (and for all the info you provide). In 2007 I protested against the pasteurization of almonds and still find it outrageous that the legislation went through. My research indicates that the methods used to pasteurize almonds are gas, steam or irradiation. Steam is the only method used for organic almonds because organic almonds must still be viable (able to sprout).

    I’ve tried several types of almonds to see if they sprouted and also to see if they were easy to peel after soaking for 8 hours:
    – ORGANIC PASTEURIZED (from California): sprouted, easy to peel
    – NON-ORGANIC PASTEURIZED (from California): didn’t sprout, easy to peel
    – ORGANIC & NON-ORGANIC UNPASTEURIZED (from California & Europe) – sprouted, hard to peel unless blanched with hot water before soaking

    As a result, the only way I buy pasteurized almonds is if they are organic, because they can still sprout. Glad to hear you’re offering people an alternative.

  6. Somewhere I read that the real reason for treating almonds was because bitter almonds are a good source of laetrile but when they are treated one of the enzymes is inactivated and the bitter almonds become ineffective against cancer. By requiring all almonds to be processed the real reason for pasteurization could be hidden

  7. Faye says:

    I am currently living in China and have been for the past 8 years. I started eat a raw diet last summer while home in Canada. When I came back to China I found raw almonds but some of them were very bitter and some were sweet. I come to find that they had almonds in the bag that look all the same, but some are not fit to eat! Does anyone have any comments about the “bitter almonds”…I tried making almond butter and it was awful! I used them in a smoothie and it upset my stomach. What is a person to do?

  8. Michelle says:

    Thanks for posting that hyesun.

  9. marie-andree says:

    Could you please provide us with the receipe with apple and almond please. Usually you post it but not this time.

  10. Eve says:

    Great blog-post!

    Hey Kevin, I’ve wondered whether pasteurized almonds might have a longer shelf life than unpasteurized? Meaning, another economic incentive for the growers is they don’t have to worry about throwing out any that “spoil” (go rancid).

    It’s no wonder so many people think food has to be cooked to be healthy… raw almonds are demonized, raw milk is attacked, meat in some restaurants has to be overcooked for them to serve it…

    it gives the impression that heating food “fixes” something otherwise wrong about it!

  11. oreganol says:

    This seems to prove that the politicians are either stupid or corrupt (or both). If you believe that raw almonds are a health hazard, then you would have to be very stupid indeed to pass legislation that still allows farms to sell potentially dangerous products directly to the consumer. If the politicians aren’t that stupid, then they must be corrupt. Why else would they agree to pass this legislation. I suppose a third alternative is that they are just completely incompetent.

    And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Sometime I think we live in a truly insane society. How did these people get to run the country? And why do people still vote for them?

    • Paddy says:

      Couldn’t agree with you more–all politicians are stupid and corrupt. they are absolutely greedy and shortsightedly stupid. Almost every law passed anywhere in any country is designed and benefited by the people who paid for it. We may not always understand it and the bottom-line business people don’t always understand anything beyond the next quarterly report, but the worried California Almond Growers might have been told by somebody, maybe from Big Pharma or the AMA, that we need t make almonds safe. Safe for who? Never ever for the consumer or even the environment, but certainly safe for the next quarterly report. If too many people are avoiding cancers due t nutrition these people may attribute it to the raw almonds. they could never conceive at all that it is a lifestyle that keeps cancer at bay not merely one lone product. but cheer up, maybe the Almond-cheeseburger will be offered at our neighborhood McDonalds for the next PR campaign.

  12. Sandy in Fort Worth says:

    Hi Kevin,

    Follow the money. In my opinion, when you follow the money you can usually determine the underlying (true) reasons for decisions, regulations that don’t make sense.

    Kevin, I really enjoy your newsletters and the information you present.


  13. Sue says:

    Big Brother is watching you!!! I think we should be able to buy anything in the raw form. There are things like meat, which I don’t purchase, that should clearly be labeled with something like “has been refrigerated since…” There are things like fruits or veggies that should have suggestions of how to serve, such as knowing the you don’t eat the leaves of things like tomatoes or rhubarb because of the oxalic acid. Consumers might like to know those kinds of facts about buying raw products. It is too bad that our government thinks we are dumb and that we should stay that way!

  14. This recipe looks wonderful. I think you’ve played this before so I assume the recipe is there–we just need to figure out which show it was.

    I need some really great suggestions for using up the pulp from making almond milk. I dehydrate and grind it into a flour but am willing to use the wet pulp, if that will turn out better. I’ve tried a few different things but my family just ignores them. My son ignores them on principle–just because a recipe is raw–but my husband for other reasons, texture probably. I added texture and spices to a batch recently and it’s still sitting there. Help! I don’t want to waste this stuff!

    • Sylvia says:

      You can throw a little almond meal into anything! Pancakes, bread, cookies…It’s hardly noticeable, but a great way to reduce the glycemic effect when eating baked goods.

      As for using it raw, I don’t know… Though I’ve eaten sunflower seed meal (left over after making sunflower milk) and it is yummy! Like eating hot cereal, only it’s cold…and healthier for you 🙂 Add a little sweetener, cimmamon, maybe a little butter…

  15. Martin T says:

    How can you tell if almonds sprout or not? I don’t think they develop tiny little tails on them like sprouted grains and certain sprouted seeds do. In my experience, it is very hard, if not impossible, to visibly tell whether or not an almond sprouts.

    Rose, can you explain how you were able to tell whether your almonds sprouted or not? Or can anyone else who knows the answer post it?

  16. rachel says:

    A better question to ask! is if if we all feel we deserve healthy raw organic foods unpolluted by sprays and chemicals, an end to all corrupt politicians and a government in bed with big business, mass agriculture promoting GMO’s and pesticides, polluters, and those like Monsanto, a true “health care” system that promotes and supports nutrition, prevention and holistic practitioners and therapies, an educational system that supports positive culture, creativity, balanced learning and freedom of expression, a tax system that is based on what our forefathers intended (taxes ONLY on profit
    from investments, NONE ever on earned income).
    Almonds are the ONLY alkaline nut and should be raw or LEGALLY LABELED as otherwise…
    namaste’, rachel

  17. Anna21 says:

    Kev, you did a fantastic job in uncovering the politics behind pasteurization. I appreciate how hard you and Annemarie work to share information about nutrition and exercise, not to mention the high quality products you carry in your online store.

  18. Cathy says:

    If the almonds are still a ‘living food’ (i.e. they still sprout and can grow into an almond tree) what difference if they are pastuerized or not? Seems like one less thing to worry about. I sprout almonds prior to making almond milk, and have seen no difference with the pastuerized ones. I don’t believe in the whole ‘eat raw or you will run out of enzymes’ theory, so unless you know that pasteurization somehow changes the level of antioxidant or polyphenol content of the almonds, it seems like a lot of fuss over something that may actually protect your health.

    • Paddy says:

      Yes ,I agree all that extreme positions may need a little moderation even if that moderation seems extreme. in fact, all extremist should be neutralized. Now that I am believer in moderation, I practice it obsessively. Joking aside, I just heard that that Russian lady who really pushed the whole raw thing realized that she needs some cooked foods once in a while. I started making Dr Furhman’s anti-cancer soup with not one almond raw or not, pasteurized or not.

  19. John says:

    I would have to agree with Cathy.

    I was unaware that retail outlets could sell really raw almonds if they were grown outside of the U.S. I’ll have to check next time I buy some from Kroger or Meijer where their almonds come from.

    I’ve soaked almonds from both of these retail stores to make almond milk and after soaking overnight I noticed that they were starting to sprout.

    I’ve heard that soaking nuts overnight remove the enzyme inhibitors.

  20. lynsi says:

    almonds DO grow a small ‘nub’ when soaked. the ‘nubs’ are unmistakable so you will know when you see them.
    TO KEN:
    as kevin mentioned above, it IS legal for california farmers to sell ‘really raw’ almonds directly to the consumer. it is only ‘retail’ outlets that are bound by the pasteurization laws.

  21. Dejana says:

    Ha ha ha!!! Bring Annmarie to London so we can meet you guys! See you soooon!!!:))

  22. Pam Dummitt says:

    Great discussion, thank you for the research.
    So that means “raw” almond butter isn’t?
    And even if it was, do they heat the jars after filling like in most canning?

  23. Lili says:

    lol of course they can consider selling imported raw almonds because most of them are irradiated and rendered useless afterward. Almonds were such a miracle food but who wants mass sheople living so long and fighting over the less than 3% fresh water in the world and oil, etc>

  24. Sephora says:

    I beg to differ on the response to what sprouted almonds look like: split a dry (prior to any soaking) “raw” almond and you will see that they already have that nub. Therefore, the nub is present before you attempt to sprout and it is not a sign that the nut is “sprouting”.

    I buy my almonds from Trader Joe’s in NYC and although it says raw, I think that they are not likely to sprout – you’d have to plant it in dirt and wait for something to grow or for it to rot to really know it seems. The last bag I bought a week ago looks rancid to me as the soaked nut is not uniformly white but yellow around the edges, so I won’t be buying any more from there and will either switch to sources I know are raw or stop eating them.

  25. Nikki says:

    Due to a Natural and Organic process, almonds contain large amounts of cynanide. It happens naturally in the wild. We need the pasteurization process to remove the cynanide that is already organically present in the seed. Almonds are seeds, btw, not nuts.

  26. Nikki says:

    Due to a Natural and Organic process, almonds contain cyanide. It happens naturally in the wild. We need the pasteurization process to remove the cynanide that is already organically present in the seed. Almonds are seeds, btw, not nuts.

  27. Pat says:

    I signed the petition and clicked on links to buy raw unpasturized almonds but they didn’t bring me to any almonds for sale and when I searched the renegade site- no results.

  28. diane says:

    No raw almonds at Renegade Store

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