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Are Your Almonds Truly Raw?

This may or may not come as a surprise, but if you’re buying raw almonds grown in the United States, they’re not actually raw.

Even if they’re labeled “raw.”

It has been brought to my attention that some people still aren’t aware of this fact, so I thought it might be a good idea to revisit the topic today.

Effective September 2007, the USDA ordered all almond growers to “sterilize” almonds in one of several ways: heat them using steam, irradiate them using a controversial ionization process, roast or blanch them, or treat them with propylene oxide (PPO).

PPO is a known carcinogen, and most countries, including the EU, have banned imported nuts treated with PPO. The chemical is so nasty that it’s even been banned by both the National Hot Rod and American Motorcycle Racing Associations, where it had been used as a fuel additive before it was deemed too dangerous.

The new rule created deceptive labeling. Almonds that have undergone chemical treatments or heating for pasteurization are still labeled “raw.” Consumers who purchase “raw” almonds may well think that those almonds are natural and unprocessed. Moreover, there will be no label requirement to specify what kind of pasteurization treatment was used among the many approved methods or combination of options. [source]

Frustrating, isn’t it?

Had I not been a raw food enthusiast at the time, this news would have probably slid right under my radar. As I recall, there wasn’t much media coverage, and I only found out about it through a raw food forum, full of outraged consumers worried about the impending ban.

In a panic, I drove to the nearest Trader Joe’s and bought as many jars of truly raw almond butter as I could possibly store in my pantry.

I was stocked up for at least 6 months.

When my supply had finally run out, I was surprised to find that even after the ban had passed, raw almonds and raw almond butter were still plentifully available on store shelves.

Only, it didn’t taste the same as the raw almond butter I stocked up on before the ban was passed.

That’s when I learned that even pasteurized almonds could be labeled as “raw.” In fact, they can be steamed, irradiated, or treated with chemicals, and still be labeled as raw!

Luckily, there are still a couple loopholes for purchasing truly raw almonds:

1) You can buy directly from farmers–> either at farmer’s markets or online. My favorite online suppliers include:

  • Bremner Farms sells unpasteurized raw organic almonds directly from their farm, starting with 5 lb boxes going up to 30 lb boxes.
  • Blue Mountain Organics sells truly raw Italian almonds, starting with bags as small as 8 oz. and up to 25 lbs.

2) You can also buy almonds that were grown outside of the USA.

I’ve noticed that my local Whole Foods has started carrying truly raw Italian almonds near the bulk section. Check your local grocery store, or talk to the store manager to request that they start carrying them!

Note: If you do choose to buy raw almonds grown in the USA, I’d recommend sticking to organic varieties, to avoid the chemical pasteurization process. These pasteurized “raw” almonds tend to be cheaper than the truly raw varieties, and if you plan using them in grain-free baked goods, they don’t need to be raw anyway! However, avoiding chemicals is always a good thing, if you ask me. 

Reader Feedback: Were you aware of the raw almond pasteurization in the United States? If so, do you make an effort to buy truly raw almonds?

72 comments to Are Your Almonds Truly Raw?

  • I don’t focus too much on choosing raw foods, but the labeling loophole is scary! Food companies get away with so much.

  • I was aware of the US not having truly raw almonds anymore but am able to easily pick up almonds from other places here. Though to be fair, who’s to say what their laws are? I’ve never checked any others and like yourself only knew about the USA law due to also coming from a raw food background.

  • Red

    I highly recommend Briden Wilson Farm in California : http://www.homegrownalmonds.com/natural-raw-almonds.html I’ve been purchasing almonds from them for the past three years. They grow the almonds so you know exactly where they’re coming from.

    • zungod

      unfortunately I cannot endorse this business. This is a CA Prop 8 endorser/donator. Thanks for suggestion. I’ll look elsewhere for raw almonds. Have a great day

      • Momma Deb

        To zungod… I also Buy locally and would rather support locally. So that being said, what’s wrong with buying unprocessed truly raw almonds directly from your local farmer…. Online.

    • BARB

      I heard from another e-mail source that all almonds from California have more toxins in them than the good.

  • This is so interesting and just another great example that the food labels often lie! Thank you for bringing this to my attention!

  • no, i wasnt, and now this makes perfect sense. we just bought a big bag of raw almonds at Sams Club (like costco) and i returned them after tasting them. they were awful. even the texture is different. they arent near as crunchy as real raw. This is so frustrating!

  • Sara

    I’m totally shocked…I wonder whether I even know what real raw almonds taste like!

  • jeanne

    My neurotic raw days are over…now I don’t care if they are raw or not, I just get organic almonds and am happy :)

    As far as almond butter, I sometimes splurge and get the organic kind, but it’s a spendy habit and there are other investments I like better…aritisana coconut butter or tahini, hello!

    I still buy the trader joe one from time to time but I don’t eat it that often. You have to weigh your risks…I eat so many awesome organic vegetables and healthy foods that even if they did use this chemical, which they may not, my exposure to it is very small. I imagine that there are chemicals just as bad used on non organic produce all the time…and in meat and dairy it’s probably way worse and I’m not exposed to those at all. So I take the minimal risk and get the benefit of eating one of my favorite foods once in a while :) Truth be told, I eat way more peanut butter than almond butter anyway and I always buy the TJ organic one because it’s organic, it tastes awesome, it’s more cost effective, and I love it :)

    Unfortunately, we probably breathe in much worse just walking outside in Los Angeles :(

  • Morgan Torres

    Makes me wonder what type of almonds are used in boxed organic almond milk!

  • Sarah

    This is new to me. Thank you for posting.. I am continually frustrated with the American food system.

    • Sarah

      I probably don’t know what true raw almonds taste like. I didn’t know this info, but was curious when I would buy what I thought were raw almonds and they tasted stale or steamed.

  • Cheryl

    I had absolutely no idea about this. Thank you for bringing it up. Can’t tell you how much I’ve learned since finding your site!

  • Christin

    I love this little blog. I am sad I will be having to step away from juicing for the next months to come (not by my own choice). This was an interesting article and thanks for sharing. =) Good point on the almond milk, eww I’ll just drink regular grass fed. ;)

  • Megan, I nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award on my blog, because you’re totally awesome and one of my favs! If you wish to pick up the award, check out my latest post. :) Happy Labor Day Weekend!

  • Cristina

    Thanks for posting this. I have known about this for a while and it is very frustrating to see “raw” almonds still being sold at TJs and other places when they are truly not raw.

    I planted an almond tree in my backyard last year just because I was so annoyed by it all! I have a very small yard in NoCal so I plan to keep the tree small, but it’s really nice to pick almonds in my own yard.

    Additionally, I found a farm in the Central Valley that sells raw almonds that are pasteurized (and USDA certified) using a very delicate technique that they detail on their website. The technique is non-toxic and maintains the “live” quality of the nuts (you can sprout their nuts) but also passes USDA muster when it comes to their regulations. I can’t remember the name of the company now. I just bought 50 lbs from them last month :) I will look it up and try to post the name here.

  • [...] article from the Detoxinistaexplains that if you’re buying raw almonds from the United States, they’re actually not [...]

  • Darlene Koedel

    Darn…I’ve been eating raw almonds forever (I thought). Now what to do????

  • JasonMChicago

    Great article. Thanks for sharing. It is getting to a point where the EASIEST THING is to leave all family, friends, and life and move to Europe. With all these poisons in food and cheating/lying etc. going on with Big Ag (and even small Ag) it is very difficult to get good-quality food.

    I noticed TJ organic almond butter tasted bad… but then again I don’t know if I’ve ever had true “raw” almonds.

    Anyway, I’m trying to grow my own food this summer. Don’t have a yard buy my parents have a HUGE backyard.

  • Ellen

    I don’t understand how you know even the ones in Trader Joe’s are truly raw. Also, I thought the law stated that only people that come to a farm or market that sells them-are you sure you can get them mail-order?

    • The almonds at Trader Joe’s are definitely NOT raw. I personally contacted the farm linked above, and they assured me that they could send me truly raw, organic almonds by mail.

  • Mindy

    Here is a place in Fresno California that sells truly raw almonds. Not sure if they ship or not, but here is the link.

    http://www.organicpastures.com/raw-almond-expose.html

  • [...] almond butter is getting rather warm… this is why I don’t recommend spending extra money to use truly raw almonds. They’ll be “cooked” by the time this process is over, [...]

  • Question! I just started buying imported raw almonds and noticed that they have somewhat of a ‘dirty’ exterior… For example, when I soak them to make almond milk the water they soak in gets MUCH dirtier than regular store bought almonds. Do you know what this is or if it’s safe to eat? Or are you supposed to thoroughly clean almonds that are truly raw before eating them?

    • Ashwin

      Raw almonds naturally have a brownish powdery substance on them, that is the way they are when you crack open the almond shell and get to them, it is not toxic or anything, it is one good way to tell if the almond was processed or not, all almonds I bought at Costco etc retail outlets do not have this type of feel to the almonds, it is because they are not raw. also the chocolate dipped varieties at these stores are when the chocolate coating is applied to the almonds externally, it is not naturally occuring

  • Kevin

    So we normally buy a 3 lb bag of almonds from BJ’s. not roasted, no salt, but obviously doesn’t say “raw” on the package.

    Can I still use them to make almond milk? Wat would be the difference from the truly raw ones?

  • Joe Ring

    The reason you can’t purchase raw almonds is because true, raw almonds actually have significant levels of cyanide. They have to be heat treated. Now, as for sprouted almonds, I would imagine that they would probably be okay. Anyone have an answer about that?

    • Debbie

      From wikipedia: “While wild almond species are toxic, domesticated almonds are not; Jared Diamond argues that a common genetic mutation causes an absence of glycoside amygdalin, and this mutant was grown by early farmers, “at first unintentionally in the garbage heaps, and later intentionally in their orchards”.

  • http://www.threelionsfarm.com This farm sells truly raw almonds and almond flour. They are the best I have had by far.

  • Phoenix

    I have search and search for a website with organic, raw, and unpasturized nuts and seeds resources. Thanks for sharing such valuable information. This definitely helps!

  • Kate

    Hello, I live in los angeles as well and was wondering if you recommend any local place to buy bulk raw almonds! Thanks!

  • [...] pada tahun 2007, banyak ke kecewa Puritan dan mentah Diet. Pasar gelap untuk benar-benar tersentuh almond bermunculan online dan di pasar petani di respon. Formula bayi Formula bayi mungkin pasar gelap sempurna item untuk sejumlah alasan. Itu [...]

  • [...] pada tahun 2007, banyak ke kecewa Puritan dan mentah Diet. Pasar gelap untuk benar-benar tersentuh almond bermunculan online dan di pasar petani di respon. Formula bayi Formula bayi mungkin pasar gelap sempurna item untuk sejumlah alasan. Itu [...]

  • [...] pada tahun 2007, banyak ke kecewa Puritan dan mentah Diet. Pasar gelap untuk benar-benar tersentuh almond bermunculan online dan di pasar petani di [...]

  • Repka

    I just ordered some raw organic unpasteurized almonds from a company called Terrasoul Superfoods http://www.terrasoul.com/ The prices are REALLY good. I talked to their owner before ordering and he was happy to answer all my questions, and even offered to mail some samples. They are a young business and it sounds like they are very passionate about their job.

  • Mary Ann

    Have you checked out the almonds from Burroughs Family Farms? Do they pass the test to be able to soak and sprout? I am looking for raw, unpasteurized, shelled, organic, no chemical fertilizers. I have checked them out and they seem to be this quality, but I am hoping you can give me your insight and knowledge on this site. Thank you!

  • Mike

    I’m sorry – I thought that the REASON they are not to be sold raw is because of the cyanide in almonds and that heat treatment (or other) was needed to make them safe. Exactly how toxic are they? and in what quantities do raw almonds have to be consumed before there’s a problem? Everyone here seems to be actively trying to get a product that might actually be bad for them, wouldn’t roasted be a safer bet rather than risking other types of process?

  • Robin

    http://www.threelionsfarm.com
    Was unable to access this website or fine a phone number.
    If someone knows how to reach them, would appreciate hearing from you.

  • loranda

    I was actually just reading up on almonds and other poisonous foods that are delicious, and the reason the not-really-raw almonds are labelled as ‘raw’ is because if you eat them without being treated in any way, they are poisonous. they are full of cyanide and steaming them (or some other treatment) is needed to kill off the toxin. (same goes for cashews; they contain urushiol which is also toxic until treated).

  • cherie

    i’m confused!
    we have a choice. eating non-raw almonds which have undergone an unhealthy process
    to remove cyanide or raw almonds which contain cyanide. which is the best of the 2 evils?

  • mel

    the talk of cyanide is false, do more research on how California almonds are grown. almonds are no longer grown from sprouting almonds, they are grafted on to fruit tress, this gets rid of the bitter almonds(cyanide) import almonds are still grown from sprouts, and they are allowed 20% bitter nuts in their products.Only place to get truly raw unpasteurized almonds is from the grower. If the place you are buying them from offers other things like almond flour,roasted almonds, this is classified as a processor which means they are not allowed to sell unpasteurized almonds, so they are either breaking the law, or are scamming you.

  • Lee Hall

    Sorry, but we simply have to pay the extra for buying Italian raw almonds.

    The truth is, I hope never to eat anything from California again. Sorry, sorry, truly so, but the Fukashima disaster has raised levels of some truly horrific things in all the water on the West Coast. Oregon, Washington (state), Cali, all are off my list for life, because it will surely take a hundred thousand years or more to clean THAT mess up. As for the primary point of this post (thank you VERY much for the links, our officials are so greedy and corrupt, aren’t they?

  • Al

    I’am willing to sell my raw almonds in the next few weeks after they are picked up and taken to the huller and sheller. They are truly raw almonds. These are Certified Organic by A Bee Organic in California

    You have to be aware that a lot of processors are mixing conventional almonds with organic because of the price difference making up too. millions of extra dollars.

    If you are late to buy leave your name and number for next year. 209-678-6199 Turlock, Ca. Specializedservices@yahoo.com Landline Marc 209 632 9860 Sept 18 2013

  • Jet

    You do understand that almonds (like apple seeds, peach pits, cherry pits and many other fruit seeds and nuts) comtain hydrogen cyanide and are toxic… So… I fail to see the logic in avoiding almonds that are just steamed or blanched and ingesting poison. And if your stupid enough to believe that almonds don’t have cyanide like some of you are attesting to so stubbornly, maybe you deserve the cyanide poisoning you have coming. In fact, let’s all eat some raw pork, and chicken as well. I hope that Trichinosis and Salmonella are considered “Whole food!” :)

    • RM

      B-17 (Laetrile) is present in Apple Seeds and Apricot Pits. The Hunzas have zero cancer incidence because in part they consume apricot pits along with the fruit. Hydrogen Cyanide only becomes toxic to the body when the molecule is broken apart which only occurs in cancer tissues. The enzymes necessary to break down HC aren’t present in high enough quantity in normal healthy tissue, only in cancer cells. I’ve personally consumed large quantities of ground apricot pits with the only side effect of mild indigestion. I wonder if the cyanide being discussed here is of the same variety?

  • I live in Norway, and I love to eat raw nuts and almonds. I’ve always heard that this is very good for you, and it tastes wonderful too. Today I read that raw almonds were not allowed in the US, and I can’t understand why.
    What is the reason for this ?
    I also wonder how GMOs are allowed. That can’t be healthy at all. Who make these strange desicions ?

  • Brenda

    The reason this 2007 law came into being is because there was a breakout of Salmonella in almonds…..do we need to be fearful of this when buying ‘raw” at local farmers markets?

  • How about Almonds Brewers Farm in CA? Grower is Randy Brewer — He does not state “certified organic” but certanly from his descriptions on his sweet but unsophisticated website they would be classified as such. And he clearly states “unpasteurized. I just ordered 5 lb from him and like the idea of supporting a “the little guy” rather than a larger more commercial establisment, and his prices are better than Bremner Farms, I noticed. So….does anyone have any info on this supplier? Also, since the 2007 Law how is that ANYONE in the US grow and sell unpasteurized almonds?
    Thanks so much.

    • Megan

      I’m not familiar with that grower, but according to the law passed in 2007, almond growers can receive an exemption if they will only be selling their almonds directly to customers at local markets, with a limit of 100 pounds per person per day in direct farmer’s market sales.

  • One more IMPORTANT QUESTION: shelled raw organic unpasteurized untreated almonds can become rancid over time. Does anyone know how long you can store them? Best way to store them?

    • Megan

      I’d keep them in the freezer for longest shelf life, but I go through mine fast enough that I can store them in a glass jar at room temperature for up to a month.

  • Terri

    Thank you for this article and for supplying where to buy truly raw almonds from. I placed my order for 5 pounds. Also appreciated the almond butter recipe–can’t wait to make my own. I add it to my pale “hummus” made with cauliflower. Love your blog.

  • Carol Glenn

    I am under the assumption that food is irradiated upon entering the United States. If this is true, buying from other countries is accomplishing nothing. Am I correct?

  • Josef

    Given that I’m from Israel and I came to your site and I learned from him so much, I’m so grateful to you.
    We are importers of raw almonds, and we will be happy to receive testimonials from some countries to buy

    Thank you, and have an excellent website

  • Sonia

    I just called costco and asked what method they use to “sterilize “the almonds ,and they use PPO :(
    I guess I will go and return my almonds. Omg I been consuming this “all natural” for over 10 years ,
    I even make my almond milk with this. What a shame.

  • Janelle

    babe there is a reason for them to sterilize the almonds because true “raw” almonds are actually poisonous! that was to remove the “toxins” of the raw almonds so that they are fit for consumption.

    • Megan

      Wild varieties of almonds are toxic (they’re also very bitter), but domesticated almonds are not– the domesticated “sweet” type is the almond we are all familiar with. Raw almonds were sold in abundance up until 2007, and they are only pasteurized now because of two past outbreaks of Salmonella, not because they are toxic.

  • What a great informative post! Unpasteurized almonds are safe to eat and enjoyed in most other countries that way. U.S. growers are actually allowed to export their almonds unpasteurized to other countries, so the law isn’t about the safety of the consumer, and unfortunately is about the California Almond Board protecting its market share. My company, Terrasoul Superfoods imports sweet domesticated, certified organic almonds from Spain, and currently offers them for sale on Amazon.com and our own website at http://www.terrasoul.com

  • Oh! Thanks so much for the information and the useful links to suppliers of good almonds! I wish I had found this two days ago, before I placed my order with Country Life co-op for 25 pounds of ”raw” almonds! :(

  • Suzy

    ok, so i’ve learned a heap about almonds from this post just now. but my reason for stumbling onto it in the first place is because i want to make my own almond milk. i bought raw, excuse me, “raw” almonds, and soaked them for two days. they did not soak up much of the water and still remain hard and crunchy. i was under the impression that after two days, or even after one day, they would become somewhat squishy after absorbing the water. so, is it because my almonds are not “raw”?? what am i doing wrong here? seems like no one else has this issue..

  • The Ricker

    Love that Almond Butter! most Almond Butter costs 11-$25 now. Just go shop at Sprouts and see what I mean, or Whole Foods.

  • […] in the United States, even if they say raw on the package. If that matters a lot to you, click here for more information. If not, just go organic – remember, we’re trying to avoid […]

  • Fedupwithidiots

    Raw means uncooked.

    The “pasteurization of almonds using PPO occurs between 34 and 40 degrees.

    This type of pasteurization does not rely on heat like with milk.

    Since the average human body has a temperature around 38 degrees then holding the almonds in your hand will make them not raw.

    Only PPO vapor is used to pasteurize almonds.

    The boiling point of PPO is 34 degrees which means it has a high vapor pressure

    This means the liquid will not condense on the almonds and no PPO will be in or on the almonds.

    Do you worry about methane, propane or butane contaminating your food when you cook with it?

    Nasty is an emotional word, not a scientific term and does not explain anything.

    PPO is not mixed with fuel because the mixture is very flammable and difficult to safely handle and use safely for sporting events.

    The highest incidence of Salmonella contamination occur with “organically” grown foods and local markets.

  • WholeFoodsEater

    Yes, I am aware of this issue. When these laws went into effect, I had already been purchasing raw organic unpasteurized non-pareil almonds from a California family organic almond farm for some years.

    A great struggle then ensued, so consumers could continue to purchase the truly raw almonds we wanted. I contributed my input to get the laws changed or excepted because I wanted non-pasteurized almonds. I believe chemically or heat treated almonds are bad for the health of my family. I understand that heat treatment destroys valuable vitamins and enzymes and in addition that processing chemicals are poisonous.

    The reason this law was instituted was due to a very small incidence of salmonella in people who had eaten almonds in the US. There were as I recall only a total of appx. 3 people in the US who were affected, and they had eaten only commercially grown almonds. NONE of them had eaten organically grown almonds.

    This law threatened the existence of small organic family farms, since it can be expensive to institute processing procedures. In addition, it is generally against the philosophy of organic family farmers to use health-destroying measures like this, as they want to maintain the health value of organic foods.

    As I understand it, the result ultimately was that these family almond farms are legally able to sell unpasteurized, truly raw, almonds when the consumer purchases them directly from these family farms, although there may be some quantity limit.

    I purchase my certified organic and truly raw almonds from Mr. Glenn Anderson, who has a family farm in Northern California. I have found him over the years to be a person of high integrity with a great old-fashioned attitude of courteous customer service and extremely fair prices. His web site is: http://www.andersonalmonds.com/

    Thank you for bringing this important matter to more consumers. It is a travesty that almonds can be labeled “raw” when treated with heat or chemicals. Allowing processed almonds to be labeled “raw” misinforms consumers. I believe the consumer has a right to purchase food that is safe and healthy, and in order to do that, the consumer needs legally available food sources and accurate information, including the correct labeling of foods.

    I highly recommend that you and your web site viewers check out The Center for Food Safety at: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org. I discovered this web site with gratitude. These folks support pending legislation (including accurate consumer labeling) to protect consumers, our food supply, our seed stock, and viability of our earth. Those who get on their action list will be informed of such pending legislation and will receive email links, so they can contact elected representatives to express their viewpoint. Together, we have a voice, and this is the time to get involved, as legislation is pending regarding Genetically Modified Foods. Learn more at http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org.

    Thank you!

  • Brian

    Thank you for writing this article – quite informative! Are there similar laws for other types of nuts or is it just almonds?

  • MICKEY

    I WAS SHOCKED WHEN I HEARD THEY WERE STEAMING AND USING PPO ON THE ALMONDS. WE EAT VERY HEALTHY FOOD. HOW CAN OUR OWN GOVERNMENT MAKE SUCH RULES TO DECEIT THE CONSUMERS. EVERYDAY I PUT SLICED ALMONDS, PECANS, CHOPPED WALNUTS, ORGANIC RAISINS AND CHOPPED BANANA. ITS HEAVENLY. I THOUGHT I WAS FEEDING MY HUSBAND AND KIDS HEALTHY FOOD. THIS IS SO VERY UPSETTING. I CANNOT BELIEVE I FED THEM CHEMICALS EVERY MORNING.

  • Here’s another great source for organic certified, unpasteurized almonds, Capay Hills Orchard in Esparto, CA. I’m the grower and owner of this family farm and I encourage you to check it out and see for yourself why we are unique in a tasty, healthy way. We ship around the world from our roadside stand and DO NOT pasteurize. Our website explains how we grow your food. We are a true family farm and also sell organic smoked almonds and truly raw almond butter made from a stone grinder! Check it it and see for yourself. Brian Paddock, owner/grower

  • Natalie Paffrath

    Is this true of all nuts or just almonds?

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