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"Big Almond" is being sued in Federal Court

From: Emily C.
Sent on: Thursday, September 11, 2008 8:46 AM
Thought you all would be interested in this! It's from the Living Tree Community in CA.

Big Almond Sued in Federal Court!
by Jesse Schwartz, Ph.D.

    A group of fifteen American almond growers and wholesale nut handlers filed a lawsuit in the Washington, D.C. federal court on Tuesday, September 9 seeking to repeal a controversial USDA-mandated treatment program for California-grown raw almonds.
    The almond farmers and handlers contend that their businesses have been seriously damaged and their futures jeopardized by a requirement that raw almonds be treated with propylene oxide (a toxic fumigant recognized as a carcinogen by the EPA) or steam-heated before they can be sold to American consumers. [Foreign-grown almonds are exempt from the treatment scheme and are rapidly displacing raw domestic nuts in the marketplace.]
    Tens of thousands of angry consumers have contacted the USDA to protest the compulsory almond treatment since the agency���s new regulation went into effect one year ago. Some have expressed outrage that even though the nuts have been processed with a fumigant, or heat, they will still be labeled as raw.
    "The USDA���s raw almond treatment mandate has been economically devastating to many family-scale and organic almond farmers in California," said Will Fantle, the research director for the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute.  
    The USDA, in consultation with the Almond Board of California, invoked its treatment plan on September 1, 2007 alleging that it was a necessary food safety requirement. Salmonella-tainted almonds twice this decade caused outbreaks of food related illnesses. USDA investigators were never able to determine how salmonella bacteria somehow contaminated the raw almonds that caused the food illnesses but they were able to trace back one of the contamination's, in part, to the country's largest "factory farm," growing almonds and pistachios on over 9000 acres.
    Instead of insisting that giant growers reduce risky practices, the USDA invoked a rule that requires the gassing or steam-heating of California raw almonds in a way that many consumers have found unacceptable.
    Mitch Wallis, a San Diego attorney and another member of the Cornucopia legal team, added that ���in one fell swoop, the USDA and its agribusiness-dominat­ed California Almond Board, have taken away all consumer access to a truly 'raw' almond.  Almonds are, especially in California, perhaps the ���king of nuts.���  If they can get away with destroying the almond, what does this portend for the future of all nuts and ultimately for all raw and natural foods?���
    ���It goes against all reason for the USDA to require domestic almonds to be pasteurized while allowing unpasteurized almonds to be imported from abroad,��� observed Eli Penberthy, a Seattle, WA-based food and farming analyst with The Cornucopia Institute.  ���Small-scale and organic farmers in California have lost sales to retailers and consumers who are instead choosing to buy truly raw almonds from Italy and Spain.���  The shift to foreign sources is ironic since there is virtual unanimity in the retail sector that foreign nuts are of lower quality in terms of flavor and appearance.
    The Cornucopia Institute has been articulating the concerns of family-scale farmers, producing organic, conventional and local food, about the potential fallout from the industrialization of our food supply.  Food-borne illnesses, and the contamination of food from large industrial farming operations, are now motivating regulators to look at "technological fixes" rather than addressing the root cause of the problems���the widespread fecal contamination of the nation's food supply.­ellsmusic
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