Judge upholds USDA requirement for raw almond pasteurization

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Agriculture Law

A federal judge has again upheld a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule that US raw almonds must be pasteurized in order to mitigate risk of salmonella, after organic almond growers challenged the rule.

Pasteurization of almonds is carried out in one of two ways: By treatment with propylene oxide gas – in which case almonds cannot be considered organic – or by steam treatment. A law requiring treatment of raw almonds, designed with input from the Almond Board of California and industry, was first introduced in September 2007, largely in response to two salmonella outbreaks linked to unpasteurized almonds – one in Canada in 2001, and a second in Oregon in 2004.

However, some organic almond growers objected to the law, saying they could charge a significant premium for non-pasteurized almonds, and US suppliers could be threatened by cheaper, unpasteurized almonds from overseas, as the law does not require imported almonds to be pasteurized.

In a decision issued Wednesday, US District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle ruled in a summary judgment that the case should not go ahead. She concluded that the USDA’s salmonella rule was “promulgated pursuant to the proper procedures."

In August 2010, a federal appeals judge ruled that organic growers could challenge the law, overturning a previous decision.

At that time, small-scale farming campaigners at the Cornucopia Institute said they had attempted to reach a compromise with the USDA and the Almond Board, and proposed a warning label for unpasteurized raw almonds, but the proposal was rejected.

According to the USDA, the 2010-11 Californian almond crop hit a record 1.6bn pounds – and the 2011-12 crop was set to be even larger, at an estimated 1.95bn.

Related topics Regulation & safety

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