I am disappointed to learn that the almonds that I have been buying from Costco, which used to be raw, and which still LOOK raw, are not. They are pasteurized.
I discovered this appalling fact yesterday in the course of some casual internet browsing. It seems that in 2007, the Almond Board of California (ABC), the FDA, and the USDA, together I'll call them BigAg, put their heads together and decreed that all almonds produced by the ABC would have to be pasteurized before being sold. As it happens, 100% of the commercial almonds produced in the US come from California. In fact 80% of the almonds in the WORLD come from California. So it's not so easy to get raw, unprocessed almonds any more.
The reason I find this distressing is that cancer has been very popular with my family and friends. Without even trying I can think of nine that cancer has taken, and it's not a pleasant way to go. Edgar Cayce said that eating almonds prevents cancer. Experts say that it's the B17, also known as laetrile, in the almond, that zaps cancer cells. But pasteurization zaps the B17. Anyway, I have been eating raw almonds for a few decades now. At least I thought they were raw.
People have been eating raw almonds for 10,000 years (conservative estimate), and it wasn't a problem. It wasn't a problem until 2007 that is, when more and more people were waking up the to the fact that they could eat raw almonds and prevent cancer. Obviously something had to be done. So BigAg bravely put its foot down and protected us.
What is BigAg protecting us from, exactly? At first glance it looks like they are protecting us from being too healthy, which everyone knows can be bad for business. Of course they cannot say that directly. What they said was that there were two different incidents, one in 2001, and another in 2004, in which a total of about 130 people got sick from salmonella-infected almonds. So BigAg decided that almonds should be pasteurized.
Incidentally, do you know how many people are killed (not merely sickened) by cigarettes every year in the US? Over 300,000, plus another 5,000 burned to death in smoking-related fires. Not a problem, says the FDA. How many died from tainted almonds in 2001 and 2004? Zero. But I digress.
There are several ways to pasteurize an almond: dry roasting, deep frying, steam processing, and gassing with propylene oxide (PPO), which also happens to be used in the manufacture of insecticide. BigAg likes that one best. Granted that use of PPO for food products is banned in the EU, banned in Canada, banned in Mexico, banned in a number of other countries; granted that our own EPA recognizes PPO as a probable carcinogen, still BigAg likes PPO the best. It is undetectable by the consumer. The almond looks the same, and has the same texture, after treatment as before. Besides, PPO is nice and cheap.
So in 2007 the long arm of BigAg secretly reached out and smacked me. Right in the almonds. It only took me five years to find out.