Beginning last fall, the USDA instituted highly contested safety rules, designed to stop any potential salmonella outbreaks, that required nearly all raw almonds grown in North America “to be either steam treated or doused in carcinogenic motorcycle fuel,” as the Grinder’s Christy Harrison put it back then. (The agency still permits the almonds to be labeled raw, however: Retailers don’t have to disclose propylene oxide fumigation or steam treatment.) The major almond growers supported the new regulations; the smaller growers, who are often organic, fought it fiercely. They were smart to try: Their market share’s been swept up by foreign growers, who aren’t subject to the same sterilization rules.
So now they’ve gone to court: Last week a group of smaller growers and wholesalers filed suit to have the rule overturned, claiming that the rulemaking process was flawed. They also “contend that handlers who paid a premium for raw almonds have been paying as much as 40 percent less for the pasteurized variety, or rejecting them altogether.” For more information on the lawsuit and the plight of small almond growers, see the Cornucopia Institute’s Authentic Almond Project.