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California almond growers request 6-month delay of federal pasteurized almond rule

California almond growers request 6-month delay of federal pasteurized almond rule

The largest organization of almond growers is asking the U.S. government for a six-month delay before enforcing a new rule requiring all California almonds to be pasteurized, saying farmers can't adjust in time to meet the original deadline.
In January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it would require virtually all almonds to be pasteurized by Sept. 1, following Salmonella outbreaks in 2001 and 2004 that were traced to raw almonds.
Now the California Almond Board wants to push back the implementation date to March 1, 2008, to give pasteurization facilities time to validate their processes and machinery and avoid interrupting the flow of nuts to the market.
Almonds have become increasingly lucrative as they have gained popularity with health-conscious consumers. California's 6,000 almond farmers expect to harvest a $1.4-billion-plus (euro1.01 billion) bumper crop this year from a flat strip of farmland sandwiched between the Pacific coast and the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Board officials said that without enough pasteurizing capacity, the industry cannot move forward.
"The pasteurization rule from the outset was subject to having enough pasteurization capacity available," said Richard Waycott, president and CEO of the California Almond Board. "We're almost there, but there wasn't quite enough capacity. It was a situation we felt wasn't fair to consumers or to the industry."
USDA officials said Monday they would be mulling over the Almond Board of California's request for a delay in the next few weeks, but said the pasteurization rule itself would not be changed.
In pasteurization _ a process also used for milk, juice and eggs _ the shelled and hulled nuts typically are laid out on a conveyor belt that passes them through a moist burst of steam to heat the kernels' surface to about 200 degrees (93.3 Celsius), killing any pathogens present.
Followers of the restrictive raw foods diet and shoppers who prefer unprocessed, organic nuts protested the government's pasteurization decision, and organized a national letter-writing campaign this spring asking the USDA to reconsider the rule.
Once the state board submits a document justifying the new timetable, the USDA will consider the request and draft a final decision to be published in the Federal Register by Sept. 1, said Michael Durando, chief for the agency's marketing order administration branch.
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Updated : 2021-10-16 04:08 GMT+08:00