Monday, August 27, 2007

I do not agree with this info but i decided to post it anyways

Hello all,

As many of you are aware, the USDA turned down the request by the California Almond Board to delay implementation of new regulations that will require all "raw" almonds to be "pasteurized" (treated a toxic fumigant or steam heating)…. if this regulation is allowed to go into effect there will be no such thing as truly raw almonds grown and marketed in this country … and possibly no longer domestic organic almonds. And one of the most egregious aspects of this new rule is that even after pasteurizing almonds with a gas considered as a possible carcinogen, or steam heating, the almonds will still be labeled as …. raw!

The Almond Board had asked for the delay because adequate production capacity was not in place to meet the September 1 deadline – an argument rejected by the USDA in their rush forward with this rule. We still question whether there is sufficient capacity to treat almonds with steam heat, rather than the only other approved alternative; the toxic fumigant propylene oxide.

We are in the midst of an aggressive campaign to pressure the USDA Secretary to suspend this rule’s implementation until the public has had a chance to have a say. If you have not already done so, we encourage you to visit the Cornucopia website ( and click on the "Authentic Almond Project" navigation button for full campaign information including a comprehensive fact sheet on the issue. Please forward a link to your staff, customers or members.

Our next step is to get public interest groups and industry professionals (growers, handlers, processors who use almonds in their products and retailers) to sign–on to the letter below.

Please click back to us with your authorization, by 5 p.m. Monday, to add your name/organization as a signatory to this important communication to the USDA Secretary. Our goal is to release this letter to the USDA next Tuesday, August 28, so we need your authorization before this to add your name to the list of signatories to the letter. This letter will not be going out under Cornucopia letterhead. It is intended to reflect the broad diversity of stakeholders engaged in and concerned with this issue. Signatories will be listed alphabetically. And if you are a farmer, please indicate so with your message authorizing us to sign you on and if you're farmer please indicate so with your message authorizing us to sign you on.

Not only is this campaign important to those who depend on raw almonds as an important and nutritious component to their diet, and those whose livelihoods depend in part by meeting these consumers expectations, this could very well be a watershed event.

We need to draw the line in the sand right here and right now. If the almond industry is successful in implementing this new "pasteurization" requirement we could very well be starting the proverbial trip down a very slippery slope — what will be the next fresh and nutritious food that will require some kind of pasteurization or even irradiation to be considered safe?

Sincerely yours,

Will Fantle
Research Director
The Cornucopia Institute


August 28, 2007

Secretary Mike JohannsUnited States Department of Agriculture1400 Independence Ave SWWhitten Building Suite 200AWashington, D.C. 20250

Dear Secretary Johanns –

As stakeholders in the domestic almond industry, we are concerned and alarmed by the potential ramifications of the USDA’s pasteurization mandate for all domestically grown raw almonds sold in the United States. We would like to take this opportunity to share our concerns with you regarding this important new regulation.

These are matters we would have preferred to raise with you and the USDA during the comment period earlier this year when the draft rule was published for review. Unfortunately, the majority of the undersigned were unaware of the proposed regulations. Almost none of us were the generous recipients of a private mailing to handlers and processors from the Almond Board of California alerting us to the draft regulation and inviting our comments. Perhaps this accounted for the incredibly anemic 18 public comments that were submitted on the draft regulation. Nonetheless, our concerns are legitimate, and we believe they should be addressed by the USDA.

One thing we can all agree on is that California almonds are the industry’s gold standard; they are clearly the superior-quality product available in the marketplace. What is at stake, however, is the future structure and shape of domestic almond production and the continued consumption and use of California almonds in this country.

As you certainly understand, the almond is not an inherently risky food. Salmonella contamination, from fecal material, occurs when it is introduced during the handling and processing of almonds. We believe it makes sense to minimize those practices that contribute to contamination risks.

However, the preferred plan of mandatory pasteurization selected by USDA is being rushed forward and has yet to be carefully vetted by all industry stakeholders. In particular, the following aspects still need to be publicly addressed:

American almond farmers are being placed at a distinct economic disadvantage. The fact that imported raw almonds sold in the U.S. do not require pasteurization harms domestic producers and is already shifting some domestic markets to foreign sources as retailers and manufacturers of products formerly containing California almonds make the switch. These savvy marketers understand that their consumers want truly raw almonds. The foreign raw almond treatment loophole is totally illogical and at odds with the rule’s rationalization of public safety and may very well not stand a court test.

This rule will impose financial burdens on small-scale and organic farmers. The costs of the chemicals and heat treatments, in addition to the costs of extra transportation and reporting, will be disproportionably taxing on smaller producers and handlers. This is unfair since none of the reported Salmonella cases in 2001 or 2004 were traced to small-scale or organic farms. We know that the Almond Board of California performed a cursory economic analysis of the treatment impacts. The lot size for treatment, used in the macro analysis, does not take into account the realities of organic and small-scale production.

§ The least expensive option approved for "pasteurization" is treatment with propylene oxide. This substance is classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Propylene oxide treatment of foods is banned in the European Union, Canada, Mexico, and many other countries. We assume you know this, as almonds exported from this country will not require pasteurization. The need to segregate exported almonds will add a significant economic burden for many producers/handlers.

§ Neither the USDA nor the Almond Board of California has released the scientific research publicly justifying the selection of propylene oxide treatment. We need the opportunity to review why it makes sense for U.S. customers to eat almonds gassed with a substance that most of the world questions the safety of. Only the Almond Board of California and its constituents have researched the pasteurization of almonds, reporting that there is no significant reduction in their quality or nutrition. Serious questions remain unanswered.

§ Organic growers and handlers that we have collaborated with indicate that there is a shortage of facilities able to provide the high-temperature or steam treatment of raw almonds. Since the propylene oxide process is not allowed under the National Organic Program Standards, this presents a difficult situation for California’s organic almond producers. This issue must be resolved before mandated pasteurization begins. Unless you intervene, domestically produced organic almonds may become unavailable after September 1. In addition, no research has been released for public review that assesses potential nutritional and compositional changes that occur in the steam-treated nuts. The public needs to see this research and have the opportunity to review and comment on it prior to this rule going into effect.

§ It is misleading and deceptive to label pasteurized almonds as “raw.” Many consumers wish to purchase truly raw, unprocessed almonds, for health, religious, or other personal reasons. In fact for some consumers with serious health issues, raw almonds may comprise as much as 30% of their dietary intake following their personal processing of the nut into various food forms. One reasonable alternative to the new rule would be to provide an unpasteurized almond option with a label clearly identifying the almond as unpasteurized. Another option would allow exemptions for organic and small-scale growers—there is some evidence that almonds grown in these environments might be inherently less risky in terms of contamination.

If there is an ongoing issue with Salmonella contamination, we need to see the scientific research that identifies it as a systemic problem, and not one that is associated solely with the largest almond farming operations or poor handling practices at the hulling and shelling level. We also want a full review of other treatment alternatives that might be less objectionable to consumers.

The above-noted comments capture many, but not all, of the issues we are concerned with regarding the mandated pasteurization plan.

We are requesting that you take action in the best interests of all almond stakeholders. Therefore, we ask that you suspend the implementation of this new regulation for a minimum of 180 days prior to the September 1 implementation date and then initiate a full review of the almond pasteurization rule with the widely disseminated notice of the opportunity for public input.

Respectfully yours,

(growers, industry participants, retailers and public interest groups are listed in alphabetical order)

Mark A. Kastel
The Cornucopia Institute
608-625-2042 Voice
866-861-2214 Fax

P.O. Box 126
Cornucopia, Wisconsin 54827

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