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.

almonds on a cutting board

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.

jar of almond butter scooped into a measuring cup

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?

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Comments

Cliff

You cant have it both ways people. Thanks to the growers at Paramount Foods (the guys that brought us POM Wonderful) there were 2 outbreaks of Salmonella in almonds. As a result of the failure to being able to ensure that the harvesting techniques, the growing, sorting and shelling of Almonds could eliminate Salmonella from the food stream, the USDA had to take the lead by banning the sale of RAW ALMONDS. Keep in mind that the USDA and FDA have a directive to prevent food outbreaks due to foodborne pathogens. If they didn’t take this step one could envision that some group would sue the regulatory agencies for not protecting them from Salmonella. On the other hand, how many people that profess to want to eat raw almonds turn around a sue the companies when the do get sick? Similarly, the same people that want raw milk are the first to pony up a lawyer once they come down with a debilitating illness directly related to their choice to drink a very unsafe product. Kind of like the smokers that sued the tobacco companies for their cancer because of THEIR choice to smoke. Cant have it both ways folks!

    Alexandra

    It’s not the actual product that makes you sick, but how it’s handled. Raw milk is NOT, by any stretch of the imagination, an unsafe food. Now if you stick it in dirty bottles or something, then there’d be a problem, but it’s not the milk or nuts itself.

Dupre

Are bitter raw almonds available anymore or just the sweet variety? I understand there are ways to purchase raw unpasteurized almonds in the US, but are these almonds – whether imported or domestically grown – only sweet almonds? I know there is much controversy over the natural toxicity of bitter almonds, but from the research I have done, the presence of amygdalin, which is present in bitter but not sweet almonds, has dramatic effects on the treatment and prevention of cancer, and to reap the benefits of it one only needs to eat a few per day, nowhere near the amount needed for any naturally occurring poison to do harm. Nevertheless, from the posts it seems that the only kind of almonds sold – pasteurized or not – are of the sweet variety. Am I correct or are bitter almonds still available? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Megan Gilmore

    As far as I know, bitter almonds are only used to make things like almond extract so the poison they contain is removed during processing. I am under the impression that sweet almonds, which contain no poison, are the only ones available in grocery stores.

    B

    You want apricot pits, for cancer treatment.

arman

I really need to know if almonds exported to other countries from the U.S are also pasteurized. Since U.S is 80%of almond producer in the world. Thanks

nikki

i am trying to make my own almond milk, but am finding it difficult to find raw unpasteurized BLANCHED almonds. any suggestions where to find these jewels???

    Megan Gilmore

    I think the blanching process would make them not technically “raw,” so that’s probably very hard to find! There’s no need to use blanched almonds for almond milk, though, since you strain out the pulp and skin after blending.

    glenda

    yes capay hills in California, and no semenilla cause they use tarps instead of shaking them onto the ground like most do,google them , they are awsome

Noel

Any tips on how to know if almonds are fresh vs. rancid??? I keep second guessing my nose, but it’s probably right. Fresh is fresh, right? : ) I soaked some macadamia nuts last night, and this morning they had a slimy coating on them which caused me to sniff them. So hard for me to know for sure — and I’m suspicious of the slimy white coating, but it could be a macadamia nut thing. They came from the Whole Foods bulk bin, so could easily be rancid.

    Brian Paddock

    Without tasting an almond or nut, there is really no definitive way to test for rancid nuts. Some folks consider placing them in water and the rancid ones float, but this is not true. Very fresh tasty almonds for example will float. some float, most sink. Depends on how much oil in the nut, density and the specific gravity of the water. The best suggestion I can do is ask your almond or nut supplier to tell you how they are stored. There is specific data on how to properly store almonds and for how long. Here is a link to a good document from UC Davis: http://homeorchard.ucdavis.edu/8005.pdf Best bet is buy you almonds/nuts direct from the farmer and have him/her tell you how they are stored. Now you know what their answer should be by looking at the UCD document.
    Brian Paddock, Organic Almond Grower, http://www.chorganicalmonds.com.

Karen Leon

If I want to make my own almond milk, recipes call for raw, blanched almonds. What does blanching do to almonds?
I haven’t found organic, raw, blanched almonds from among your links to good almond sources.

Abe

Hello
WE are looking for raw almonds in the shell–for germinating and growing trees. This is a class project.
Kindly advise if your almonds in the shell are suitable..?
We are in Thailand.

    Brian Paddock

    I can provide you my almonds. They are unpasteurized and will sprout tress when watered. Not sure how they will do in Thailand. They like a Mediterranean climate.

TJ

If the USDA requires pasteurization, how should we naturally “clean” the almonds if we purchase raw, organic, unpasteurized almonds?

    Brian Paddock

    Good question. Almonds are not clean due to how they are “normally” harvested. The USDA implemented pasteurization dues to the manner which almonds: onto the ground, then swept up with a dusty sweeper and pick-up machine. Past cases of Salmonella poisoning were attributed to this method. When the harvested almonds are harvested this way, even though they are in a semi-porous shell, they still get rubbed around among the many pathogens on the orchard floor. Hence USDA required pasteurization to prevent an economic crisis in the almond industry and State of California. Organic Pasteurization kills the live enzymes via heat. The solution I have implemented as an organic grower to provide unpasteurized almonds yet safe and clean is to harvest on tarps, not the ground! My almonds are not rubbed around on the ground and are not subjected to pathogens. So back to your question: If you buy from a farmer who does not harvest onto tarps and you want clean, safe unpasteurized almonds then you are out of luck; cant be cleaned. Otherwise buy from an organic farmer who harvests onto tarps, therefore the nuts are clean and there is no need to wash them. This is what my farm offers: Capay Hills Orchard.

    Kathy

    I sprout a lot of different kinds of seeds. Making sure all the seeds are uncontainated is always a concern. When soaking seeds I buy, I add a couple drops of GSE (grapefruit seed extract) to the water to kill off any unwanted organisms.

BSDetector

This absolutely disgusts me that you would do absolutely no research yet implore people to find unpasteurized almonds. It’s frankly shocking that you were so oblivious that you did not consider why it is illegal to sell raw almonds.

Listen up readers. RAW ALMONDS ARE POISONOUS. THEY CONTAIN CYANIDE. Don’t take my word for it though, talk to a doctor, read some studies, do your research.

Don’t believe imbeciles like this blog that’s supposed to help you get RID of toxins, while suggesting you eat literal poison. You have been warned.

    Megan Gilmore

    It sounds like you have been misinformed; there are two varieties of almonds, sweet almond (P. dulcis variety dulcis) and bitter almond (P. dulcis variety amara). Sweet almonds are the familiar, edible type consumed as nuts and used in cooking or as a source of almond oil or almond meal– and they are safe to eat raw. The oil of bitter almonds is used in the manufacture of flavouring extracts for foods and liqueurs, though prussic acid must first be removed. Source: http://www.britannica.com/plant/almond

    Megan Gilmore

    And keep in mind that the USA did sell raw almonds up until 2007– so plenty of people were eating raw almonds and not dying. The concern was about two cases of salmonella contamination, not poison found in the almonds. Let’s be careful who we’re calling imbeciles here.

    glenda

    that’s why you soak them, duh

Andrew

You can’t beat the quality and price of Food To Live Organic Almonds. They also offer free shipping.
https://foodtolive.com/shop/organic-almonds/

    Brian Paddock

    Just realize, the almonds from https://foodtolive.com/shop/organic-almonds/ are imported from Spain. They are not California almonds. Furthermore most folks are interested in knowing how their food is grown, Food to live is NOT the farmer, they are a retailer. How are they harvested? On the ground? Who knows. Purchasing unpasteurized almonds directly from the farmer has and inherent benefit; knowledge on how it is grown and prepared for your table.

Catherine

I was just recently informed of this issue, and I’d like to know whether almonds still in their shells are pasteurized as well? If so, do any US almond producers sell almonds in the shell (because it’s technically illegal now to sell them unpasteurized if grown in the US). Thanks!

Dana

Wow, this webpage is like shill-central. The reason they do not want us to consume the almonds raw, is because those are too healthy. Humans consumed them for kabillions of years before the almighty science came around and created the issues we see with bacteria today. They did not die, they did not get sick. Factory farming of ANY food, will introduce bacteria. If the raw almonds did not provide such a high content of B17, then we would not be having this discussion. Nor would the shills be commenting.

This blog is awesome, and this piece is wonderfully written! Thank you for spreading information instead of lies. It is refreshing to see these days! Now y’all go drink some raw milk and eat an apple seed with cyanide… and NOT die!

    Dinah

    You, you’re the one I want to talk to. Thank you for being a wonderfully truthful and insightful person. Where do you buy your almonds? I want what you’re having.

Satvinder Kaur

Is there any variety of almonds that does not have any bitter almonds at all?

Brian Paddock

I think Nonpareil almonds are not bitter at all and are even a little sweet. I also grow Monterey variety and they may be a tad less sweet, they are not bitter either. I am an almond grower and directly sell my organic certified unpasteurized almonds to the consumer. I am willing to sell you any variety (I have 3) and any quantity under 100lbs. I can also provide different varieties I grow, separated so you can discover the variety you like the best. Check out our farm at http://www.chorganicalmonds.com and see and read for yourself how we grow your healthy food the way it should be done.

    Ken

    Thank you Mr. Paddock. Your web site is nicely done and had great information on your farming practices. I just ordered a 5 pound bag. Thank you for the care you put into your farm.

    I have a Natural Grocers near by, and they sell a Organic Spanish Raw Almond. Being from Spain I assume it really is raw, but I have not been able to comform that. Plus they have a dust on them that I don’t enjoy while eating them (what is that from?).

    David sirieix

    Hi
    What an article….; i shop carefully at the outdoor market in NY and would like to order your raw almonds if possible (?)
    Additionally, i am looking for walnuts, caschews, peanuts, figues* and dates ***
    I buy currently at fairway (organic) can u tell me if they come from California as well (??)
    Whole foods was “out” of the italian raw almonds and inend up buying them from
    The Brenner farm site….
    Can u help me source the above (?)
    Thx
    David

Brianna

Great blog-post!

I appreciate how hard you and Annemarie work to share information about this topic. I’d rather have almonds that were pasteurized than sprayed with chemicals. They should stop lying about being raw and tell you which treatment they received. How can the guy advertise his own “real” raw almonds as raw when the others are lying in their advertising?

cindy

so what about almonds in the shell?

Nancy Hardy

Hi, Is there any way to find UNPASTURIZED, raw and organic seeds, such as pumpkin, sunflower and sesame,in the US? Thanks

Steve

This. ALL. OF. THIS!

Thank you for consistently and constantly taking the time to think holistically about the world we live in and how we are all connected with the earth through science.

I’m actually planning on going with Bremner’s (unless I want to spend $250 just to save on a bulk rate from Blue Mountain (although I know they sell bentonite clay that is mined the appropriate way!)

My question is actually about “One Lucky Duck” . . . I tried to search online for it, but it looks like it was a brick-n-mortar that closed down? Is it near where you live? Did it move or get reopened? Just wondering if the company has a new name or something!

Ever since I made those Date Energy Balls, I knew I had to Subscribe. Thanks for the constant ideas and knowledge. It’s made me a fantastic raw vegan paleo cook. 😀 BTW, I’m at the point right now that sprouted nuts are SO delicious that I can’t even make them last long enough to cook with them. HA! Except for Cashew crusted cod filet…… but that’s it!

but

It really pisses me off that farmers are screwing people by charging TWICE as much (OR MORE) for unpasteurized almonds when removing the extra step of pasteurizing actually reduces production costs!!

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