What YOU can do to make almonds safe...
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
We have prepared a Press Release. We'd like to ask your help in
getting it out. Could you please send it to your local newspapers,
tv, radio and other media. Suggest that you follow up by phone to
call it to their attention. In addition you can send it to CNN, Fox
News, Associated Press, NY Times, Boston Globe and the Washington
Thank you indeed!
September 17 , 2007 - Press Release
Over one billion pounds of almonds are being harvested here in
California. The California Almond Board in conjunction with the USDA
has mandated that they be fumigated. Now almonds have been grown in
California for over 150 years. During that lengthy span there have
been but two outbreaks of Salmonella, one in 2001 and another in
2004. Both occurred with conventional almonds, not organic. What's
going on here? Its not hard to conjecture that it has something to
do with the advent of large scale industrial processing. An almond
grower clued us in:-
Almonds are harvested by having a machine come along and shake the
trees. The almonds fall to the ground and are gathered up. Now
conventional almond orchards are often fertilized with fresh manure.
(This is prohibited for organic almonds where manure has got to be
well composted.) Its not hard to see this as the source of the
contamination. But that's not all.
The almonds are then put in bins and loaded on trucks. Around a
processing plant there may be acres filled with trucks sometimes
waiting for days till its their turn to unload. So the almonds sit
there in the hot sun, in bins covered with tarpaulins. The almonds
are moist and are there baking in the sun What more ideal conditions
for every sort of bacillus to flourish? Could there be a more
perfect petri dish?!
The problem could be resolved, it seems to us, by foregoing fresh
manure and by just in time scheduling so that there is no need to
have trucks waiting around for days. Instead they have chosen to
fumigate. What a delightful solution. (Reminds us of the meat
packing industry- instead of cleaning up the unspeakable conditions
in slaughter houses, they want to irradiate meat.)
Organic almonds are handled differently our farmer friend told us.
They are grown in orchards filled grasses and wild plants. All
summer long the orchards are mulched and mown. The grasses and trees
are alive with insects, birds and animals. This biodiversity is a
natural check against any untoward organism. Conventional almonds on
the other hand are grown in lunarscapes. The ground beneath the
trees is bare-after all, nothing must get in the way of production.
Now propylene oxide is a substance very much like ether. It is a
highly toxic, flammable chemical compound. It was once used as a
stock car racing fuel, but, we are told, it has been banned by the
National Hot Rod Association as too dangerous to handle. It is also
used as a military explosive, we were edified to learn. No one gets
near the stuff unless dressed in a space suit equipped with a
respirator, rubber hands and boots. We were further edified to learn
that The United States Food & Drug Administration approved its use
to "pasteurize" raw almonds. But we find this, somewhat difficult to
understand, as propylene oxide is classified by the Environmental
Protection Agency as a probable human carcinogen. "Probable",
although it has caused cancer in laboratory animals, because no one
has been willing to imbibe the stuff to see what would happen. One
would imagine that this would be of concern to an agency ostensibly
charged with safeguarding the nation's health. But then there are
many things one could imagine. We learned further that propylene
oxide belongs to the so-called "radiomimetic" genotoxic chemicals
group, because it induces similar biological end-points as ionizing
radiation. The chemical's effects on food include gene mutation, DNA
strand breaks, and neoplastic cell transformation.
Needless to say, this is quite unsettling as regards the long term
effects on the health of those who eat almonds regularly. It appears
that propylene oxyde may be more of a health risk than whatever harm
might be caused by Salmonella outbreaks.
At a time when Americans are increasing concerned the safety of the
food they eat, the Almond Board has sent them a powerful message
about better toxicity through chemistry. We note that the propylene
oxide treatment of foods is banned in the European Union, Canada,
Mexico and most other civilized countries.
Let us also remember that almonds are consumed by children, adults,
expectant and nursing mothers and elders.
Yet the California Almond Board is rushing to fumigate. As we see
it, this is a dangerous precedent. Before long, most food sold in
the United States will be genetically modified, irradiated,
pasteurized, homogenized, hydrolyzed and labeled "natural", of
Almonds are the most nutritious of nuts. It is tragic that the
California Almond Board is fumigating them. In doing so, they are
destroying a thriving American industry.
The San Francisco Chronicle recently did an interview with us and
others in the industry. It appeared as a front page feature story:
Organic Almond Supporters Roast Pasteurization Plan
There is a wealth of additional information on our website at:
As we see it, California almonds are the heritage of the American
people. Almonds are grown nowhere else in North America but here.
They are the result of the intentionality of family farmers, the
fertile soil of the great Central Valley, water from melting snow in
the high Sierra Mountains and the California sunlight. They are our
I would be pleased to provide further details.
With kindness and appreciation,
Jesse Schwartz, Ph.D.
Living Tree Community Foods
(510) 526-7106 ext.12
(510) 526-9516 fax