Organic group battles back against nutty almond regulation

Last fall I told you about the government-mandated ruling that turned almonds from a nutrient dense power food into a nutrition-less dud. That's right, after a whopping TWO people were sickened by Salmonella linked to raw almonds, the USDA decided enough was enough. As of September 1, 2007, all almonds are now pasteurized.

Does something seem wrong with this picture to you? Two cases of Salmonella, and suddenly this government agency is all over almonds like hair on a gorilla. When have they ever been on the ball with anything?

Then, to make matters worse, the FDA decided that the pasteurized almonds could be labeled as raw. Do the officials there need to take a nutrition class? Anything that's pasteurized is NOT raw!

But here's some good news: finally, there's an organization that's fighting against the FDA's mandatory almond pasteurization. The Cornucopia Institute is pressing both the USDA and the Almond Board of California (ABC) to produce documents to prove that there is science to back up the almond pasteurization law. They've even filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the documents.

The Cornucopia Institute is a pro-organic organization that promotes, according to its website, "economic justice for family-scale farming." They're arguing - correctly - that the government's pasteurization process involves a toxic fumigant or treatment with high temperatures, which, of course, affects the nutritional content of the nut.

The USDA easily got the Almond Board of California, which represents the massive, commercial almond producers, to fall into line with the process. Now all of your almonds are either cooked or sprayed with the poison propylene oxide (PPO) to kill salmonella and other bacteria.

As always, it's the smaller farms and dairies that have the least resources to sustain operations in the face of expensive, government mandated processes. "Big Almond" (just like "Big Dairy") is sitting on piles of cash, so they can just shrug and pass the cost of these unnecessary production steps onto the consumer. For organic farms, these mandates are often a death sentence. The result is a de facto government elimination of organic foods as a viable food choice for consumers.

The Cornucopia Institute is fighting the good fight and fighting it hard. They've also filed a lawsuit on behalf of California almond farmers and raw almond wholesalers that not only claims economic damage from the federal regulation, but also contends that the USDA lacks the authority to enforce such a law.

Meanwhile, the ABC has stuck to the USDA party line, assuring that "extensive research" was conducted that proves the effectiveness and safety of the PPO process. But here's the kicker - the ABC has steadfastly refused to make the results of these or any other tests public.

I'm not surprised the ABC's members don't want to rock the boat. After all, they're making money hand over fist. Last year, the California Almond industry harvested a staggering $1.4 billion profit.

I'll keep my eye on this one and let you know what happens next. Stay tuned.

Eat slower, stay trim

You've heard of biting off more than you can chew? Well, apparently that's true both literally and figuratively. According to a Japanese study, wolfing down your meals in a hurry and eating to the point where you feel full can triple the likelihood that you will suffer from weight problems.

When you eat too quickly, you're shoving extra calories into your system before your brain has had time to register the feeling of fullness that tells you to stop eating.

It's funny to me that this was reported in a British newspaper. Yes, the British - the inventors of the deep-fried candy bar - who, like all Europeans, seem to be fond of pointing out how fat Americans are. Seems to me that the obesity epidemic is no longer a uniquely American issue as is popularly thought. Asians and Europeans must be just as adept at packing on the extra pounds.

According to England's Telegraph newspaper, more than a quarter of British adults are overweight or obese. It seems the pot is calling the kettle black, old chaps.