Are the “raw” almonds you purchase at the health food store really raw? Not legally, if you live in the USA, thanks to a mandatory law passed by the USDA in 2007.
In fact, not only are they not raw, they may potentially be treated with a dangerous chemical known as Propylene Oxide. The worst part? This chemical won’t show up on the ingredient list, since it is used in the processing or “pasteurization” and is not considered an actual ingredient.
“You won’t often find the designation of “raw” used to label almonds in the marketplace, at least since 2007, when the USDA, on the recommendation of the Almond Board of California, passed the mandatory almond pasteurization program in response to two cases of salmonellosis linked to almonds several years earlier. Any almonds that you do find designated as “raw” have undergone steam pasteurization or have been chemically treated with propylene oxide, another form of pasteurization.” (emphasis my own)
The above picture is from a website which offers propylene oxide services. Note that this process is offered for almonds, pistachios, as well as “other nuts and seeds”.
Sounds kinda spooky, but what exactly is propylene oxide, anyway? Here’s a sampling of the information listed on wikipedia:
Propylene oxide is an organic compound with the molecular formula CH3CHCH2O. This colourless volatile liquid is produced on a large scale industrially, its major application being its use for the production of polyether polyols for use in making polyurethane plastics.
Between 60 and 70% of all propylene oxide is converted to polyether polyols for the production of polyurethane plastics. About 20% of propylene oxide is hydrolyzed into propylene glycol, via a process which is accelerated by acid or base catalysis. Other major products are polypropylene glycol, propylene glycol ethers, and propylene carbonate.
Historic and niche uses
Propylene oxide was once used as a racing fuel, but that usage is now prohibited under the US NHRA rules for safety reasons. It has also been used in glow fuel for model aircraft and surface vehicles, typically combined in small percentages of around 2% as an additive to the typical methanol, nitromethane, and oil mix. It is also used in thermobaric weapons, and microbial fumigation.
The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of propylene oxide to pasteurize raw almonds beginning on September 1, 2007 in response to two incidents of contamination by Salmonella in commercial orchards, one incident occurring in Canada, and one incident in the United States. Pistachio nuts can also be subjected to propylene oxide to control Salmonella. It is a method approved by the FDA.
Propylene oxide is a probable human carcinogen, and listed as an IARC Group 2B carcinogen.
(emphasis my own)
Incredible, but true. Propylene Oxide is used in the manufacturing of plastics. In the past, it was used as a racing fuel, but is now banned for safety reasons. It is also a probable human carcinogen, meaning it may lead to the formation of cancers in the human body. And its being sprayed all over the nuts and seeds that we consume – because of only two instances of salmonella contamination on almonds, one of which wasn’t even in the United States.
The worst part is that we have no way of knowing which seeds and nuts are safe to consume, and which are not, because it does not show up on labels. The solution? It’s not exactly the most convenient answer, but if you are serious about keeping toxic chemicals out of your diet, you’ll have to either grow your own or know your source- buy from local suppliers that can assure you they do not use Propylene Oxide in the processing of their foods.
- If you want to learn more about propylene oxide, or any other chemical pesticides / herbicides, I highly recommend you visit http://www.pesticideinfo.org
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