Almond Lawsuit Filed

Longtime readers will recall that about 15 months ago we wrote about a new mandate requiring that all raw almonds grown in the U.S. be "pasteurized" via steam or a toxic chemical process – while still labeled "raw." Pasteurization is meant to protect the public from germs that thrive where sloppy agriculture and food handling are practiced. Critics (like us) say that if everyone would wash their hands and keep animal manure off the nuts, then pasteurization would be unnecessary and "raw" could actually mean what it’s always meant.

Recently, the Cornucopia Institute helped organize a group of fifteen almond growers and wholesale nut handlers who have sued the USDA in federal court over this issue. They are seeking a repeal of the controversial pasteurization program, claiming the USDA exceeded its authority when putting this program in place.

The pasteurization program, crafted by the USDA in concert with the Almond Board of California, has created a goodly amount of backlash within the almond industry. Tens of thousands of consumers have complained to the USDA. A number of natural food retailers now prefer to stock foreign-grown almonds, which are not pasteurized. Some small scale and organic almond growers who direct market their nuts complain that their businesses are being devastated by pasteurization.

Both LocalHarvest and Cornucopia are concerned that corporate agribusiness will keep looking for ways to protect their risky industrial scale practices from liability – and that they may be successful because they are doing so in the name of "sanitizing" our food supply. Onerous testing requirements, pasteurization schemes or irradiation could prove disastrous for smaller, high-quality agricultural producers and would deprive loyal consumers of fresh, nutritionally superior, local food. This is a fight we all need to take seriously. We’ll keep you updated as things unfold. Meanwhile, you can read more about the lawsuit and financially support the effort at the Cornucopia website.

Back to the September 2008 Newsletter