California almond growers have asked for an extension on a rule requiring all almonds sold commercially to be pasteurized.  The California Almond Board has asked the USDA to push back the date of required pasteurization to march 1, 2008.  The Board is arguing that almond farmers have not had enough time to validate their processes and update their machinery. 

The San Diego Tribune reported on the Almond Board’s request:

The largest organization of almond growers is asking the 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.

AlmondThe California Almond Board posted the following on its website:

Why was a food safety plan necessary?

In the past 5 years, the almond industry experienced two food safety incidents in which raw almonds were recalled due to the presence of Salmonella. While contamination in almonds is not common, the industry determined that aggressive measures were necessary to prevent any other occurrences. Research was needed to develop more effective, practical technologies for reducing potential contaminants in almonds. It was also important for the entire industry to adopt these food safety measures in order to provide the safest and highest quality product possible for consumers. The “Action Plan” accomplishes both of these goals.