They can’t. But evidently the USDA thinks they can be. Almonds must now be pasteurized, yet they can be sold labeled as “raw.”
This seems to be yet another case of government double-speak, which though cloaked in the guise of “protecting consumers,” really just deludes consumers with false advertising.
Sure, we all want our food to be safe, yummy, and healthy. Many people choose raw foods for those reasons, and accept any perceived inherent risks in doing so.
But in this case, the two salmonella “outbreaks,” in 2001 and 2004, sickened a few dozen people. Let’s put that into perspective: according to the article, the US produces 1.3 billion pounds of almonds every year.
So to counteract an extremely rare occurrence of food contamination (one that could be prevented through better-enforced or enhanced cleanliness measures in processing plants), all almonds must be sterilized? With a chemical so carcinogenic it was banned as racing fuel?
And here’s the real kicker: according to the article, less than 10% of almonds consumed are raw anyway.
So the USDA is going to take away the option for an informed consumer to obtain raw domestic almonds (unless you are lucky enough to live in California’s Central Valley, where all US almond are grown, and can find them in a farmer’s market or farm stand where selling raw almonds will still be legal), and will yet again drive small farmers out of the business because of onerous and expensive processing requirements.
Makes me want to vote Libertarian, I tell you.