US: Judge: Raw almonds must be treated
Posted: January 23rd, 2012 - 10:34am
Source: McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON — A federal judge has again upheld U.S. Agriculture Department rules requiring treatment of raw almonds, in the latest blow to organic farmers in California's San Joaquin Valley.
The mandatory pasteurization or chemical treatments protect consumers from salmonella. The requirement to apply them is also well within the Agriculture Department's power, a federal judge ruled this week.
"The salmonella rule does not exceed the (department's) authority," U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle concluded in a decision quietly issued late Wednesday, "and it was promulgated pursuant to the proper procedures."
Huvelle's decision is a victory for the Modesto-based Almond Board of California, which administers the agricultural marketing order by which the industry regulates quality control, research and advertising. The board recommended new safety rules in 2006 following incidents of salmonella contamination, and the Agriculture Department subsequently put them in place.
The 30-page decision, though, is another defeat for Fresno, Calif.-area farmers Nick and Steven Koretoff, Livingston, Calif.-based farmer Cynthia Lashbrook and others who complain the required treatments undermine their ability to sell organic produce for a premium price.
"People should be able to buy them," Lashbrook said in a telephone interview Thursday.
Now, Lashbrook lamented, consumers keen on raw almonds will simply turn to foreign sellers, who are not bound by the Agriculture Department rules.
Raw, organic almonds can be sold for as much as 40 percent more than a conventionally treated almond.