Is There Engine Fuel on Your Almonds?

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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.

Gassed almonds? Did you know that engine fuel is on most almonds sold in the US? I heard that but didn't believe it at first. Then I did research and found out that it's true. Here's why there might be engine fuel on your almond and what you can do about it.

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.

Sort of.

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.

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Why Did Companies Start Treating Almond?

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 it turned out, however, the issue wasn’t about all almonds. It was that the company processing the almonds where the problem started had unsanitary equipment. So really the whole industry was affected instead of just correcting the real problem.

As a result, all almonds in the US are now pasteurized either by:

  • steam
  • freezing (this is rare) or
  • PPO (propylene oxide).

What Is PPO?

PPO is a synthetic, highly-flammable, volatile liquid that is used primarily in the process of making polyethers and propylene glycol. It’s also used as an additive for engine fuel in vehicles (hence the title of this post), and as a pesticide and for disinfecting or sterilizing of foods. (source)

PPO has been classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a Group 2B, probable human carcinogen. (source)

Sadly, PPO is a commonly used method to treat almonds, because it’s cheaper than steam distilling almonds.

One source (discussing PPO on almonds) says that 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“, however it appears that it was banned due not due to it being a carcinogen, but due to it explosive.

Is There PPO On All Almonds?

No, there isn’t. However, it’s on a lot of almonds.

At the time this post was written, PPO couldn’t be used on organic almonds due to regulations and standards placed on organic foods.

How to Stop Buying Gassed Almonds / Where to Buy Non PPO Almonds

At the time this post was written, Costco stated that their Kirkland almonds are sprayed with PPO

A Midwest natural foods supplier, Country Life Natural Foods, told me initially that most of their almonds were steam pasteurized, but I later heard from a reader that their conventional almonds are treated with PPO. Calling and asking before ordering is best.

Also try code WHOLENEWMOM to get a discount on their almonds or anything else that they sell. I had a Country Life co-op out of my home for 20 years.

Following are some options for buying almonds without PPO.

Find a non-PPO Almond Source

Since some companies only use steam, you can call and ask companies what they do and purchase from those that do not use PPO. Of course, a company’s practices might change so you should follow up on occasion to make sure that they are are still doing things without PPO.

As mentioned, organic almonds do not have PPO sprayed on them.

However, if you don’t want to spend the extra cost for organic, here are some conventional almonds that at the time of writing this post were not pasteurized with PPO.

Buy From Azure Standard

Azure Standard is a great company. They have organic almonds that of course do not have PPO on them, but their conventional almonds are also PPO-free.

They sell so many great products at fantastic prices and their mission statement is stellar as well.

Purchase “Sproutable” Pasteurized Almonds

Though 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 stores and online but they are quite pricey.

Purchase Imported Untreated Almonds from Spain 

Spain is apparently a good option for purchasing raw almonds, however these are also pricey. When I wrote this post, they were selling for about $13.99 per pound.

Find a Raw Almond Buying Club

Some groups buy 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.

Buy Direct From an Almond Farmer

Not simple but it’s a possible solution.

Grow Your Own Almonds

Truly not feasible for most people and almond trees take awhile to have a good yield.

A Final Action Point

I highly recommend that everyone reading this post contacts the Almond Board to ask if they will consider halting the spraying of almonds since it really didn’t make any sense.


Where do you buy your almonds?

Source: Local Harvest

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318 Comments

  1. I’m very concern about the safety of all nuts and seeds as it relates to chemical sprayed on them not just almonds. Is there any information on this?

    1. Hi there. Good question. I haven’t heard about any kind of spray being put on other nuts for these reasons. But of course we have to think about pesticides!

  2. I called Trader Joe’s awhile back, and they told me that theirs are steam pasteurized. That’s better than gas!