Pasteurizing Almonds: Good or Bad?

Most almonds and hazelnuts in the USA are now irradiated. Irradiation is the use of radiation to help preserve foods and kill off bacteria. This has been standard practice since 2007 when the FDA decided that all raw almonds grown in the USA must be pasteurized before sale.

The reasoning behind this decision was 2 outbreaks of salmonella that were traced back to almonds (2001 and 2004).   The outbreaks were very mild and the almonds  turned out to be grown by conventional farmers, not organic farmers.

But nonetheless all almonds were to be irradiated rather than practices change to prevent the repeat of a problem.

Pasteurizing Almonds: Good or Bad?

So what is wrong with pasteurizing almonds?

If you are a raw milk drinker and supporter then you already know the answer to this question.  Pasteurization and heat destroy important enzymes and vitamins.

There are 4 main types of pasteurizing almonds:

  • steam processing
  • high heat treatment (roasting)
  • blanching
  • highly toxic fumigation treatment with propylene oxide (PPO)

Two are the primary methods used, which are steam processing, and PPO fumigation.

Steam processing is the method used for pasteurizing organic almonds and they are heated to a temperature of 200 degrees with steam.  Not only are the enzymes and vitamins destroyed but so are the  bonds of the fats and the fat then oxidizes and  becomes a source of free radicals.

Recent scientific studies show that heating almonds creates potentially harmful levels of acrylamide, a dangerous byproduct of the amino acid asparagine. Acrylamide is a chemical known to cause cancer, or reproductive toxicity (such as birth defects and other reproductive harm).

If your almonds are pasteurized with propylene oxide fumigation(PPO) there is much more to be concerned about.   PPO is a verified carcinogen that is highly flammable, with fumes that are  hazardous to a human being's personal health.

The EPA has declared PPO a carcinogenic chemical that is responsible for neurological, gastrointestinal, respiratory, and immune system dysfunctions, as well as liver disease.   The European Union, Mexico and Canada have all banned the use of this toxic chemical in anything to do with our food.

Can you avoid pasteurized almonds?

You can avoid pasteurized nuts but you have to buy your almonds  directly from the farmer or you have to buy organic.   The other exception to this rule is nuts that are foreign imports often avoid the irradiation.

In researching I found one source at Raw Nuts and Seeds where they sell organic almonds that are not pasteurized.  sells organic almonds from Spain that are not pasteurized.   Amazon also sells some organic imported almonds that are not pasteurized.

If you live in California which is almond country you may be able to find a local farmer that will sell you nuts before they send them to be pasteurized (kind of the way some farmers will sell their raw milk before the milk truck picks it up- just don't tell anyone).

For more Information:


Shared at Wildcrafting Wednesday and Wellness Wednesday.


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Jennifer Dages
Jennifer is a happily married homeschooling mother of 4 who lives in small town Pennsylvania. She blogs at The Entwife's Journal and at Purposeful Nutrition. She is also an RN who is working to build a health business through blogging, speaking, and health coaching.
Jennifer Dages

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11 thoughts on “Pasteurizing Almonds: Good or Bad?

  1. So why do you not mention the fact that raw almonds have elevated levels of naturally occuring cyanide? I feel that deserves mentioning.

    1. B-12 contains cyanide, too, but it is essential to human life. What you are trying to say is that almonds are a source, though weak, for B-15 and B-17, which also contain cyanide. I might point out that people drown in water, but we don’t mention that when discussing a food that has high water content.

  2. Hi!

    I make my own almond butter and I have become increasingly concerned about the nuts I use. I am a college student and I don’t have the funds to buy organic almond or alone butter, is there a better nut or seed butter alternative? I LOVE nut butters but through my research I have found that almond butter is the best.

    Thank you!

  3. I understand your dilemma. I cannot afford to buy everything organic either. We eat lots of peanut butter at my house despite the fact that peanuts are known for mycotoxins and may not be super healthy. But I have to feed my children something and I can’t always afford the best options. So I try my best by eating organic when I can, buying from as close to the source as I can manage, and then hoping the 80-20 rule works out in my favor. If you can find a source for almonds directly from the farmer you will be better off. And if you can’t then just balance out the other things you eat so you are not having almond butter all the time from irridiated almonds.

  4. I use Barney Butter products because they use steam instead of PPO. I discovered that almond milk from the store gives me headaches. I think the problem is the PPOs.

  5. Are nuts in the shell also pasteurized? If so, does it still affect the nut itself? If not, Isn’t that a way to get unpasteurized nuts? More work, yes, but well worth it. Even the organic shelled nuts I get at Trader Joe’s are pasteurized and now that includes walnuts, too! Hope someone can answer this; it would help us all.
    Thank you!

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