A 2007 USDA rule requiring that US producers must pasteurize or chemically treat all almonds may soon no longer be in force.   Almond growers could be allowed to sell unpasteurized raw almonds, as the result of  a ruling Tuesday by the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C, according to a news report.

The  2007 rule was a response to prior outbreaks of Salmonella linked to the production and sale of raw almonds in the U.S.  The USDA rule requires that almonds produced in the United States must be pasteurized or chemically treated to prevent salmonella outbreaks.

In May, 2004, the FDA announced the nationwide recall of whole natural raw almonds connected with  cases of Salmonella Enteritidis poisoning in Alaska, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, and Utah. The recall was later expanded to include millions of pounds of raw California almonds sold worldwide, and by June 1, 2004, over two dozen illnesses had been linked to consumption of contaminated raw almonds.

The FDA then instituted a rule requiring all almonds sold in the US to receive some form of "kill step" to eliminate the risk of pathogenic contamination.  Imported almonds not subject to such a requirement, though, were still available for sale in the U.S.

According to the recent report, "several California almond producers filed suit, arguing that the rule is arbitrary and capricious, exceeds the USDA’s statutory authority, and violates various procedural requirements."

The Appeals Court ruling may now clear the way for U.S. producers to return to the sale of untreated almonds.