The new rules required almond handlers to achieve a stricter reduction in salmonella bacteria count, by pasteurizing the nuts before shipping. Pasteurization methods range from blanching and steam treatments to use of chemicals.
“While contamination in almonds is not common, the industry determined that aggressive measures were necessary to prevent any other occurrences,” the almond board stated at the time the rules were imposed.
Organic almond growers, though, claimed in their lawsuit filed in September that the new requirements “functionally shut them out of the organic market.” The growers stated that “substantial amounts” of their almonds could not be sold in the last two years.
“(Organic almond) handlers have built their businesses, in part, by marketing raw almonds to customers interested in buying food that is minimally processed, free from the use of chemicals, and not exposed to heat treatments, roasting, or other processes,” the lawsuit stated.