You may or may not be familiar with the new laws regarding the required pasteurization of "raw" almonds in the U.S. For those of you who have not read about all of the shenanigans surrounding almonds, let me bring you up to speed.
In 2001 and 2004 there were cases of salmonella contamination in almonds. In response to this, in 2007 The Almond Board of California, which oversees nearly all of the almonds that are grown in the U.S., decided to implement a mandate that would require all almonds be pasteurized for safety purposes. The interesting point, of course, it why on earth would almonds contain salmonella? It has nothing to do with the almonds themselves, rather it is caused by runoff from nearby CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations, which are the ridiculously inhumane and unsanitary mass confined animal feedlots that are referred to by Big Ag as "farms.")
Instead of regulating the CAFOs and the issue of runoff, the Almond Board of California has demanded pasteurization of ALL almonds under their jurisdiction, which is essentially all almonds grown in the U.S. Why would they do this? Well, there is the safety concern side, but that would be best dealt with by actually going to the source of the problem. Almonds are not the problem; the same thing has happened to other innocent foods such as spinach and melons. The problem is the CAFOs and they will continue to contaminate their neighbors until they are forced to deal with their sanitation problems. Therefore, there has been a lot of speculation that the true motivation for the mandate is for the larger almond growers to squeeze the little farmers by making them shell out the money to have their almonds pasteurized, which is a costly step. Was it really a political power play on behalf of the powers that control the Almond Board? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, the mandate doesn't really get to the heart of the issue and has created a system that now deceives the public.
What do I mean by deceiving the public? The new law also dictates that these now pasteurized almonds can still be labeled as raw. Say whaaat? Yep. It's a lie folks. Pasteurized almonds, whether they are treated using the less undesirable method of steam heating, or are gassed with PPO (propoylene oxide, a known carcinogen), these almonds are not raw. Truly raw almonds are a living food. You can sprout them. Pasteurized almonds are dead. So why are companies allowed to lie to us and pretend that their almonds are raw when they aren't?
You can still buy truly raw almonds in the U.S. if you buy them directly from the grower at a farmer's market or online. There are a number of small companies that sell unpasteurized raw almonds: a few examples are One Lucky Duck, Renegade Health and Bremner Farms.
A great resource with the latest on the pasteurization laws and the difference between raw and pasteurized nuts can be found here at www.livingnutz.com
If you want to know which brands use steam and which use PPO check out this Guide to how almonds are pasteurized. Keep in mind that all certified organic almonds must use the steam method, so buying organic is a great way to avoid PPO.