Trying to avoid almonds that are ‘gassed’? Here’s a little guide

Posted by
August 7, 2012

Although you certainly can't tell by looking at them, these Diamond of California brand almonds were fumigated with PPO gas.

Since my blog at the end of July about the forced “pasteurization” of most domestic almonds with either a steam treatment or fumigation with toxic propylene oxide (PPO) gas, Food Identity Theft readers have been asking about specific almond brands – if they are gassed or steamed.  And as I topped my organic oatmeal and cranberry cookies with Diamond brand sliced almonds, I had the same question. After all, who wants to go to all the trouble of whipping up something with carefully thought-out ingredients, only to realize the almond part of the recipe has been soaking up a chemical used in the production of antifreeze and hydraulic fluid?

Since 2007, the “almond rule” has mandated that most almonds grown in California’s 400-mile-long Central Valley region (where just about all domestic almonds come from) receive one of these pasteurization treatments. Organic almonds are always steam treated, and truly raw almonds can still be purchased either at farmers markets or farm stands in California (in quantities of 100 pounds or less) and also can be imported from abroad.

Growers can also ask for an exemption for almonds that receive further processing such as roasting, blanching, or other heat treatments, but it is entirely possible that roasted almonds, or even ones incorporated into foods (such as crackers and cookies) have been “pasteurized” with one of the above methods beforehand.

When we put the question to the customer service departments of several popular brands of almonds sold both in stores and online, here is what we were told:

Costco brand Kirkland Signature: Both the Kirkland Signature chocolate-covered and whole almonds are fumigated with PPO, which a spokesman said he was told doesn’t remain in the nuts, despite the fact that almonds containing residues of up to 300 parts per million of this chemical, which California regards as a “known carcinogen,” can be legally sold.

Planters: The age-old Planters brand (now a division of Kraft Foods) told Food Identity Theft that all of its almonds are steam treated, even ones that receive further heat treatments such as oil or dry roasting.

Diamond of California: All Diamond brand almonds receive the PPO gas treatment. A Diamond, spokesperson added that it’s possible the company’s Emerald line of roasted almonds (referred to as “snack nuts”) may be “pasteurized” as well, but they have not confirmed that as of yet.

Blue Diamond Almonds: While its sliced and slivered almonds are steam pasteurized, its whole-nut “natural” line is treated with the toxic PPO gas, according to a representative. Other Blue Diamond Almonds products such as Almond Breeze, Nut Chips and Nut Thins, however,  use steam-treated almonds, with any whole “naturals” going to Canada being steamed rather than fumigated.

Whole Foods store 365 brand: All Whole Foods-labeled almonds are steam-treated, since the use of PPO gas, according to a company spokesperson, would be “completely unacceptable to our standards.”

Back to Nature: After a very long wait (and some very bad call-waiting music), we were informed that this brand, which is also owned by Kraft Foods, only uses the steam method.

Superior Nut Company: Every single one of Superior’s non-organic almonds are fumigated with PPO. However,  the organic selection sold in bulk at the company’s website, NutsinBulk.com, is not fumigated. In fact, if these almonds are indeed imported from Spain as the company told us they are (although it’s not confirmed at the website), they could be truly “raw” and not even be required to receive the steam treatment.

Trader Joe’s store brand: Trader Joe’s reported that “no almond with our name on it” would ever receive the gas treatment, meaning all of the company’s branded almonds are steam-treated.

A group of almond growers will be headed back to court shortly over this “pasteurization” issue, arguing that the U.S. Department of Agriculture overstepped its authority when it required the California Central Valley growers to treat their almonds. Citizens for Health and its board chair, Washington D.C. Attorney Jim Turner, are among groups that have filed a “friend of the court” brief in support of the almond growers.

In the meantime, this information might come in handy if you’re looking for almonds that haven’t gone to the gas chamber.