Chemical-Free Process Approved For Pasteurizing Almonds

The Almond Board of California’s Technical Expert Review Panel (TERP) has authorized the use of another chemical-free process for pasteurizing almonds. The state-of-the-art technology produced by RF Biocidics of Sacramento, uses radio frequency waves to kill pathogens, insects and mold on almonds. This process, developed at the University of California- Davis, allows almonds to be treated effectively without the use of harsh chemicals.

Pasteurizing Almonds

Nearly all almonds consumed in the United States are produced in the state of California. The California almond crop for 2015 is estimated at 1.85 billion pounds and harvested from nearly 900,000 acres of land. Only 30-40% of the almonds are sold in the United States while the rest are exported around the world.

The main reason many people add almonds to their diet is not based on taste alone. The health benefits and medicinal value of almonds are wide-ranging. Providing a healthy alternative for treating respiratory disorders, anemia, diabetes, heart disorders and constipation, the simple almond may be small but it is certainly powerful.

Unfortunately, if not treated properly, the almond can also have a damaging impact on one’s health. After the Salmonella outbreaks that occurred in 2001 and 2004, where nearly 30 individuals became ill in the U.S. and Canada, the Almond Board directed that all almonds must be pasteurized. Beginning in September 2007, all almonds grown either conventionally or organically, must undergo some sort of wash or heat treatment. The only exception to this rule applies to small California growers who sell their almonds in small batches directly to customers.

Until this point, the Almond Board and U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved pasteurization techniques included more traditional methods like roasting, blanching, steam processing and propylene oxide treatments.

A New Approach

Unlike traditional pasteurization methods that use harsh chemicals and potentially compromise the nutritional value of almonds, RF Biocidics utilizes volumetric heating to remove pests and bacteria. The radio frequency waves effectively get rid of unwanted elements without changing the taste or nutritional value of the product. “I can tell you within the industry, this was a very important milestone. Not only for our company but really for the industry,” said RF Biocidics CEO Craig Powell. “Our process is non-chemical, and that’s a huge breakthrough.”

Ready Roast Nut Company of Madera, CA was the first to purchase RF Biocidics’ Generation 3 APEX machine. This major supplier of dry roasted and oil roasted almonds, purchased the system for nearly 1 million dollars in November of 2014. However, before the new almond pasteurization technique could be used commercially, it had to be tested and evaluated by the Almond Board’s TERP.

After thorough testing by a third party laboratory TERP reviewed the results and found that not only did the Generation 3 Apex machine eliminate unwanted pathogens, like Salmonella, it exceeded the Board’s requirements.

“RF Biocidics prides itself on helping growers and processors navigate a new era of food safety,” said RF Biocidics Chief Executive Officer Craig Powell. “We are proud to be a part of the almond industry’s continued efforts to provide high quality and safe almond products for consumers to enjoy.”

What do you think of this new process of pasteurizing almonds?