Engine fuel on almonds? Is this really a thing? Find out all of the details about PPO and almonds and about where to get non PPO almonds so you can be a more educated consumer.
Before we get to the engine fuel and almonds issue, did you know that the "raw almonds" in the grocery store, health food store, or at Costco, are most certainly not raw almonds at all?
And did you know that they are most likely coated with a fuel additive. Jet engine fuel additive, to be specific. As in for racing cars and motorcycles.
I know. I couldn't believe it either.
Seriously - we've been eating gassed almonds.
I first heard about this situation about 3 years ago when visiting another whole foods friend in a Chicago suburb.
My friend told me something about a chemical called PPO being sprayed on almonds. Like many new scary-sounding bits of natural information (like heavy metals, mercury in fish, personal care products in water), I thought, "Oh yeah, sure." Then I asked her to show me proof. Just in case she was right, you know :-).
Well, she produced a copy of an article outlining the problem. I got home, did my research, and found out that she was right.
Yes, Virginia, you just might be eating Gassed Almonds.
Why is There Engine Fuel on Almonds?
The history of this situation is this: In 2001 and 2004 there were two outbreaks of salmonella poisoning that were traced back to almonds. 33 people became ill, but thankfully no one died.
As a result, tons of almonds were recalled.
The Almond Board of California (ABC) started pasteurization of all almonds as a result and asked the USDA to mandate it.
As a result, all almonds in the US are now pasteurized either by:
- freezing (this is rare) or
- PPO (propylene oxide). According to Local Harvest, PPO is "a chemical so nasty that it was banned by both the National Hot Rod and American Motorcycle Racing Associations, where it had been used as a fuel before being deemed too dangerous."
I called Costco and they verified that their almonds are sprayed with PPO. A Midwest natural foods supplier, Country Life Natural Foods, said that
typically their almonds are steam pasteurized, but it is best to inquire whenever ordering from them (I have heard from a reader that Country Life's conventional almonds are treated with PPO, but that could change at any time so call and ask! And use code WHOLENEWMOM to get a discount on their almonds or anything else that they sell. They're good people--I had a Country Life co-op out of my home for 20 years!)
By the way, I am not a total raw foodie, but keeping your nuts raw gives them added nutritional value.
You can read more about raw foods and how to make nuts and seeds more digestible in my post on How and Why to Soak Nuts and Seeds.
How to Stop Buying Gassed Almonds / Where to buy Non PPO Almonds
Following are some options for buying non PPO almonds.
1. You can purchase "sproutable" pasteurized almonds. I haven't done enough research into this to know if they are really more nutritionally beneficial than steamed almonds. I have seen these in our local health food store and they are really pricey (about $11 per pound).
2. Purchase imported almonds from Spain. My most recent internet search for these yielded shocking prices of about $13.99 per pound
3. Find a raw almond buying group that buys almonds direct from almond farmers. There's a little loophole in the pasteurization law that makes it an option to get truly raw almonds as long as you buy them directly from a farmer. I had one of these out of my home and we bought loads of almonds every fall. Not sure if I will keep going it as it was a boatload of work this last year.
4. Become friends with an almond farmer and purchase almonds directly from the farm.
5. Grow your own almonds (not an option here in Michigan :-).)
6. Contact the Almond Board to ask if they will consider halting the spraying of almonds.
7. At the very least, if this is of concern to you, contact your current almonds supplier to make sure that they aren't spraying PPO on your almonds.
8. Here's a link to some almonds off of Amazon that is not pasteurized with PPO.
Where do you buy your almonds?
Source: Local Harvest