1. Headline
  1. Headline
By TODAY Food Editor
updated 4/10/2007 4:58:10 PM ET 2007-04-10T20:58:10

The USDA is attempting to require that all almonds grown in California to be sterilized with various pasteurization techniques in response to Salmonella outbreaks in 2001 and 2004 that were traced to raw almonds. All almonds, with two exceptions, would undergo a sterilization process that includes chemicals and/or high-temperature treatments. Organic raw almonds will not be fumigated and undergo only the steam-heat treatment thus they are no longer "raw," and small-scale growers can sell "raw" almonds only direct from farm stands.

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. Play nice: 4 ways to teach kindness and raise kids who aren't jerks

      Every parent has probably said, “play nicely” or “be kind to your sister.” And most of us agree that we want to raise cari...

    2. Natalie and Jenna: We can be the next Thelma and Louise — 'minus the ending'
    3. Renee Zellweger selling Connecticut country home
    4. 5 things I wish my boss knew about fatherhood
    5. Tying the knot

The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group, is requesting that the FDA reopen the proceeding for public comment as the proposed change was not effectively communicated to the public. In fact, only 18 comments were received on the proposal — all from the almond industry which, unlike consumers, retailers and other organizations concerned with food safety, received a personal letter or fax from the USDA on the proposal and an invitation to comment.

In light of the recent foodborne illnesses involving peanut butter, spinach, lettuce and pet foods there is little doubt that consumers are more concerned about food safety than ever, which certainly offers the USDA a window of opportunity to institute stricter regulations and different technologies to reduce food safety problems. Most food safety issues occur when contaminated water, soil or transportation and handling equipment come into contact with the product. But, according to The Cornucopia Institute, this USDA regulation might well be  ignoring the root causes of food contamination  "dangerous and unsustainable farming practices."

Concerns raised about the proposal include the costs of the chemical and heat treatments (a propylene oxide chamber runs up from $500,000 to $1,250,000 and a roasting line from $1,500,000 to $2,500,000) as well as transportation costs to and from treatment facilities, which would place a heavier burden on small farmers as opposed to big business.

Even more important is that the most common method of sterilizing almonds is by propylene oxide fumigation, which is listed by the International Agency on Cancer Research as a possible carcinogen. It is banned in the European Union, Canada and Mexico, among many others, from being used in the treatment of food for human consumption.

We agree with The Institute's main contention — these almonds which would be labeled "raw" is deceptive to those who wish to buy truly raw, unprocessed almonds. It's time to separate out the technology benefits (or drawbacks) from labeling issues and allow shoppers to be able to trust what’s listed on the package as being “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

For more food safety information and tips visit Phil’s website www.supermarketguru.com

Phil Lempert is food editor of the TODAY show. He welcomes questions and comments, which can be sent to phil.lempert@nbc.com or by using the mail box below. For more about the latest trends on the supermarket shelves, visit Phil’s Web site at SuperMarketGuru.com.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

More on TODAY.com

  1. Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

    Play nice: 4 ways to teach kindness and raise kids who aren't jerks

    7/24/2014 7:05:14 PM +00:00 2014-07-24T19:05:14
  1. Watch the full ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ trailer: What we couldn’t show on TV

    “Fifty Shades of Grey” fans, you’ve come to the right place. 

    7/24/2014 12:30:07 PM +00:00 2014-07-24T12:30:07
  2. video ‘Fifty Shades’ stars give first look at steamy film

    video Stars Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson offer TODAY viewers a sneak peek at the highly anticipated film. When Savannah Guthrie told Dornan that viewers had asked if he'd do the interview shirtless, he said, “I would have considered it.” 

    7/24/2014 5:22:44 PM +00:00 2014-07-24T17:22:44
  3. Not a date movie: Why ‘Fifty Shades’ a girls’ night hit

    Even though the film is opening on Valentine's Day — the biggest date night of the year — women are likely to turn the movie into a social event.

    7/24/2014 1:22:41 PM +00:00 2014-07-24T13:22:41
  4. Universal Pictures
  1. Air Algerie Flight AH5017 plane wreckage found   

    General Gilbert Diendere says the wreckage of Air Algerie Flight AH5017, which went missing with 116 people on board Thursday, has been found in Mali. 

    7/24/2014 2:47:05 PM +00:00 2014-07-24T14:47:05