Until very recently I thought that when I ate a raw almond I was eating a “raw” almond. However, it seems that’s not the case. You see, all California almonds (and almost all almonds in our country come from California) are either heat-pasteurized or treated with a fumigant! 1


One of those two processes has been required by law since 2007 in order to prevent foodborne illness. However, once it’s been pasteurized it really isn’t raw anymore. The term is incredibly misleading. But this rule doesn’t just apply to almonds; other nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, by law, must be pasteurized. And, if they aren’t steamed, they “must be fumigated with a chemical called propylene oxide, or PPO.”2 Yum.


In the early 2000s, there were two salmonella outbreaks traced back to almonds. In an attempt to avoid any more issues, the Almond Board of California asked the U.S.D.A to “implement a rule requiring raw almonds grown in California’s Central Valley to be pasteurized.”3 In 2007 they issued what’s now known as “the almond rule.” Tim Birmingham, who oversees quality assurance for the Almond Board says the regulation was written in the consumer’s best interest.
For the farmer who doesn’t want to pasteurize his product, they don’t have to, thanks to an exception within the regulation: sell directly to consumers in small batches and no pasteurization is required.


Current studies show that pasteurization doesn’t change the nutritional value of almonds so other crops (walnuts, pistachios, and dried apricots) are preparing for what they see as an inevitability.

Have you ever tasted an actual raw almond? Which taste do you prefer?

Sources and References

  1. NPR, May 19, 2015.
  2. NPR, May 19, 2015.
  3. NPR, May 19, 2015.