Here is a letter forwarded to me from our friend Dr. William Harris of Honolulu, Hawaii:
July 11, 2007
To whom it may concern:
I wish to protest the impending decision by the California Almond Board to pasteurize most of its annual almond crop. As a consumer, I prefer to eat my food raw and since raw unblanched almonds are an important protein source in my diet this decision appears to me arbitrary and illogical.
However, as a retired clinician it seems to me the decision is also ill-founded scientifically. It would appear pasteurization has been selected as a legal response to a spate of salmonella enteriditis cases occurring in the years 2001-2006 and well documented in a series of peer-reviewed articles:
(1.J Food Prot. 2007 Apr;70(4):820-7. Prevalence and amounts of Salmonella found on raw California almonds. Danyluk MD, Jones TM, Abd SJ, Schlitt-Dittrich F, Jacobs M, Harris LJ.
2. J Food Prot. 2006 Aug;69(8):1851-7. Survival of Salmonella enteritidis phage type 30 on inoculated almonds stored at -20, 4, 23, and 35 degrees C.Uesugi AR, Danyluk MD, Harris LJ.
3. J Food Prot. 2006 Jul;69(7):1594-9. Monte Carlo simulations assessing the risk of salmonellosis from consumption of almonds. Danyluk MD, Harris LJ, Schaffner DW.
4. J Food Prot. 2006 Apr;69(4):712-8. Growth of Salmonella Enteritidis phage type 30 in almond hull and shell slurries and survival in drying almond hulls. Uesugi AR, Harris LJ.
5. J Food Prot. 2005 Jan;68(1):191-8. An international outbreak of salmonellosis associated with raw almonds contaminated with a rare phage type of Salmonella enteritidis. Isaacs S, Aramini J, Ciebin B, Farrar JA, Ahmed R, Middleton D, Chandran AU, Harris LJ, Howes M, Chan E, Pichette AS, Campbell K, Gupta A, Lior LY, Pearce M, Clark C, Rodgers F, Jamieson F, Brophy I, Ellis A; Salmonella Enteritidis PT30 Outbreak Investigation Working Group.)
While I accept the evidence that the Salmonella may well have been passively transmitted by almonds, particularly those that became damp after falling to the ground, it would seem there are other unmentioned considerations.
Plant foods are not an intrinsic source of nutrients for the microbes pathogenic to humans that over a 500 million year period have adapted to their host's "internal milieu". Specifically, Salmonella grows best on a media enriched with beef extract and bile salts, both slaughterhouse byproducts. (Baron EJ, and Finegold SM. Diagnostic Microbiology. p A-24 C.V. Mosby. St.Louis 1990. ISBN 0-8016-0344-7.) There is no mention of almonds or almond extract anywhere in this book devoted to the arcane topic of laboratory culture media for pathogenic organisms. Out of 116 laboratory culture media used to grow and isolate bacteria that cause human disease, 97 contain blood, milk, serum, brain, heart, bile, eggs, and other animal material.(Ibid p 657 )
It appears that almost all human contagious disease originated from domesticated animals in which the organism was benign until it mutated and jumped the species barrier into humans (E. Fuller Torrey, M.D., Robert H. Yolken, M.D. Beasts of the Earth: Animals, Humans, and Disease. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick 2005 ISBN 0-8135-3571-9). This thoroughly referenced and scrupulously scientific work concludes that domestic fowl first blessed us with the Salmonella organism but notes also that it can be transmitted by cattle and cattle manure.
The initial Salmonella outbreaks seem to have involved almonds grown and processed by Paramount Farms, Lost Hills, CA 93249. A visit to their web site http://www.paramountfarms.com shows a huge green almond orchard adjacent to their processing facility which is in turn surrounded by a vast expanse of desert. An online tour through the facility shows state of the art almond and pistachio processing, with in-house laboratory and quality control staff. However, it is also clear that the orchard is green only because of abundant irrigation equipment, some of which on a windy day might reasonably spray contaminated water into the fruit bearing branches of the almond trees.
Further investigation shows that the water that nourishes the farms around Lost Hills comes from the Feather River basin 400 miles away in the northern Sierra Nevada http://www.aliciapatterson.org/APF1204/Clemings/Clemings.html
Water disputes are not unheard of in this dry area http://www.ceres.ca.gov/ceqa/cases/1978/tsun_lee_031478.html
and as an economic measure the open aquaducts are geomembrane lined to avoid extensive subgrade preparation or large right-of-ways for equipment.
On occasion the Lost Hills Water District has made small trials to determine if drainage water can be reused on selected crops, such as pistachios.
Almost all of Lost Hills' residents are migrant farm laborers. About 75% of the population are engaged in agricultural positions, speak no English, and the median income of males is only $17,804. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_Hills%2C_California
Among the counties of California, Kern County (of which Lost Hills is a part) ranks in the top ten for total livestock and livestock products including beef cattle, dairy cattle, sheep, swine, goats, small animals and poultry. http://cekern.ucdavis.edu/Custom_Program813/
Since almonds themselves are unlikely nutrient hosts for Salmonella it would seem more reasonable that the outbreaks were due either to contamination of the irrigation system by sewage runoff from nearby animal agriculture, or from the unwashed hands of the poorly paid orchard and plant workers. Recent outbreaks of E.coli in spinach and other field crops have made big headlines, but in every case the origin turned out to be sewage runoff from adjacent cattle operations.
I urge you to abandon the almond pasteurization scheme, which will make your excellent product less desirable to me and many others, and instead focus your attention on the points above. If the contamination is in fact due to neighboring animal enterprises, those enterprises should be held legally accountable, rather than placing blame on raw almonds, a blameless product.
William Harris, M.D.
Dr. Harris is a raw foodist and is the President of the Hawaii Vegetarian Society, the largest vegetarian society in the US.
Here is Dr. Harris' website: http://vegsource.com/harris/
e.m.a.i.l - info at whatwouldjesuspasteurize dot com
Copyright ©2007 WhatWouldJesusPasteurize.com