The “raw” food is a California almond. Outside of a very small group of farmers who sell truly raw, untreated almonds in quantities of 100 pounds or less at farmers markets and stands in California, all California raw almonds are steam cooked in propylene glycol (PPO). PPO was once used as a racing fuel but is currently used in the creation of polyurethane plastics, fuel additives and the fumigation of almonds. The industry prefers to use the term “pasteurization” over fumigation as it sounds much more palatable.
While most raw almonds produced in California are fumigated in this way, California almond growers can sell untreated raw almonds to other countries. Additionally, you and I can buy raw almonds from other countries that are not fumigated.
Why the disparate treatment of this staple food to most naturalists?
It seems that the problem dates back to 2007 when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) required this treatment on all California almonds. The USDA bases its regulation on two outbreaks of salmonella in 2001 and 2004. The USDA ruling which was quietly passed essentially killed the truly raw almond market in the United States. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency has made moves twice to ban the use of PPO as it is a “known carcinogen.” The EPA have relaxed their concerns so long as the “pasteurization” process with PPO is no more than 300 parts per million.
The USDA ruling is currently winding its way through the US Court of Appeals. Until their ruling is changed or overturned, a good rule of thumb is for you and me is to buy organic almonds, raw untreated almonds at farmer markets or raw almonds labeled as packaged in other countries.