While there are four main methods of pasteurizing almonds, steam processing, high heat treatment (roasting), blanching and highly toxic fumigation treatment with propylene oxide (PPO), two of them are the primary methods that are used most often.. These two are steam processing and PPO fumigation.
Steam processing is the method delineated to the organic sector of the almond industry. While this is probably the cleanest method of pasteurizing almonds it is still an option reserved for those who have the budget to use machines like this.
As you can imagine, most organic almond farmers likely do not have the budget or the desire to invest in this type of equipment leaving their only option being contracting with other businesses that do have this type of equipment. Of course this is unrealistic because the farmers will have to transport their entire harvest from their farm, to the facility where this equipment resides (that could be anywhere in relation to where their almond farms are located) and then back to their farms before they can even prepare their harvest to be sold to their customers. The extra expenses this adds to the production of the almond crops eats a massive potion of the profit (if not all of it), making it a losing option for most producers and that is assuming they have access to this type of equipment, which most don’t.
On top of this unrealistic expectation on organic farmers as assumed by the USDA, the farmers are then left with almonds that have been heated to the point where their life force is almost entirely dissipated and with recent scientific studies showing that heating almonds creates potentially harmful levels of acrylamide, a threatening byproduct of the amino acid asparagine that results from heating almonds, organic almond farmers are basically left with a no win situation. This has been the fate of countless organic Californian almond growers who have been subjected, with no say whatsoever to the 2007 federal mandate dictating their immediate implementation of steam pasteurization.
Due to how quickly this mandate occurred, most almond farmers were not able to comply, leaving them literally in the dust. Millions of dollars that once supported the thriving organic almond industry had now been averted into the hands of big corporate almond producers and pasteurization equipment producers.
The second primary almond pasteurization method is called propylene oxide fumigation(PPO).
PPO is the pasteurization method reserved for non-organic almonds. PPO is a chemical so nasty it was banned by both the American Motorcycle and the National Hot Rod Associations, where it had been used as a fuel before they recognized how dangerous it actually was. PPO is a verified carcinogen that is highly flammable with noxious fumes that are incredibly hazardous to a human beings personal health. Even the EPA has declared PPO a carcinogenic chemical that is responsible for neurological, gastrointestinal, respiratory, immune system dysfunctions and liver disease, to name a few.
In addition to the American Motorcycle and National Hot Rod Associations banning it, countries such as Mexico, Canada and the entire European Union have banned it because of its known carcinogenic risks to human beings!
Here is a hazard summary as reported by the EPA:
“Propylene oxide is used in the production of polyethers (the primary component of polyurethane foams) and propylene glycol. Acute (short-term) exposure of humans and animals to propylene oxide has caused eye and respiratory tract irritation. Dermal contact, even with dilute solutions, has caused skin irritation and necrosis in humans. Propylene oxide is also a mild central nervous system (CNS) depressant in humans. Inflammatory lesions of the nasal cavity, trachea, and lungs and neurological effects have been observed in animals chronically (long-term) exposed to propylene oxide by inhalation. Propylene oxide has been observed to cause tumors at or near the site of administration in rodents, causing fore stomach tumors following ingestion via gavage (experimentally placing the chemical in the stomach) and nasal tumors after inhalation exposure. EPA has classified propylene oxide as a Group B2, probable human carcinogen.”
Even if you are a person who cares less whether your US grown almonds are pasteurized or not, do not, I repeat DO NOT eat non-organic almonds grown on American soils unless you also don’t mind subjecting yourself to a chemical so toxic that its use was banned by National Motorcycle and Hot Rod Associations!