The Organic Almonds we stock at Santos Organics aren’t pasteurised. They are organic, they are Australian and they are RAW but there is a good chance that the almonds you are eating could be pasteurised – even if they are Australian and organic.

In 2003 and 2004, a number of individuals in the United States and Canada became ill in a salmonella outbreak linked to almonds distributed from California. Since 2007, the Almond Board of California has required that all almonds (including those labeled ‘organic’) receive some type of wash or heat treatment to eliminate potential pathogens on their surface and legislated an industry wide mandatory pasteurisation of almonds sold in its domestic market.

In response to similar incidences of salmonella outbreaks in Australia in 2012 and subsequent national recalls of contaminated almonds, the Almond Board of Australia (ABA) is currently preparing an application to Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) proposing that all almonds sold in Australia are also subject to a mandatory pasteurisation process.

The ABA hoped that this position would be formally approved by FSANZ before the 2014 season however this has not yet happened. Despite this, the current situation is that most almonds (including organic almonds) distributed within Australia are already being pasteurised.

The standard forms of pasteurisation for almonds include oil roasting, dry roasting, blanching, steam processing and highly toxic propylene oxide (PPO). PPO is approved in Australia but not acceptable in any national certified organic standards here and is in fact banned in many countries for non-organic production as well.

For organic almonds, a steam pasteurisation process is used where almonds are heated to a temperature of 200 degrees with steam. Although the ABA maintains that the almond will retain its raw texture, nutritional value and crunchy taste with pasteurisation, it is well known that pasteurisation and heat destroy important enzymes and vitamins in foods. In heating almonds, not only are the enzymes and vitamins destroyed but the bonds of the fats are also destroyed and oxidised, becoming a source of free radicals.

Recent scientific studies have also shown that heating almonds over certain temperatures for extended periods of time may create potentially harmful levels of acrylamide, a dangerous byproduct of the amino acid asparagine. Acrylamide is a chemical suspected to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.

Santos Organics only stock whole almonds sourced directly from a farmer in South Australia – John Maragozidis. He grows and distributes his own certified organic almonds and distributes for one other certified organic grower in his region under the branding of “Yunis”. John is strongly opposed to the application ABA is submitting for mandatory pasteurisation in Australia and is currently not pasteurising any almonds under the branding of Yunis. His almonds are by far the best we’ve ever tasted and it is important to him and to us that they remain “raw/natural/unpasteurised”. Although steam pasteurisation would be a much preferred option then PPO, we believe all forms of pasteurisation should be optional only for growers who have never recorded a salmonella issue.

We also have concerns over the potential extra costs involved for pasteurisation and how that will impact on small organic growers, and whether these growers will even be able to access pasteurisation facilities if they don’t have the perceived required commercial volumes. We feel it is an overly broad-scale punitive approach to dealing with a few isolated incidents that happened over a number of years when often the overall quality of almonds in those years was compromised due to extreme weather conditions. There seem to be more effective and less compromising ways of managing an orchard and the stock in terms of preventing pathogens like salmonella. To impose legislation like mandatory pasteurisation will potentially have a negative impact on the organic almond industry and small almond growers. We have to question if there is more to this then what is being presented by the ABA??

Almonds that are sold in Australia currently do not have to be labeled “pasteurized”. It is possible you are already eating almonds that you thought were raw/unpasteurised and in fact they are actually pasteurised. We encourage you to ask your supplier if they are and suggest they be labeled appropriately. Go one step further and ask them to purchase non-pasteurized almonds. It is more than likely that even if mandatory pasteurisation is imposed, almond producers will not be required to label the almonds as “pasteurized” but we, as consumers have the right to ask for that information.

When FSANZ calls for submissions in relation to the proposed legislation Santos Organics will be contributing and we will be letting our customers and Facebook followers know so they too can have an opportunity to challenge this proposal.

In the meantime, click here to order your fully certified organic Australian RAW almonds . . . definitely not pasteurised.