A lawsuit filed in the Washington, D.C. federal district court late last year, which would throw out the USDA’s raw almond pasteurization mandate, is moving ahead. Enacted in the name of food safety, the USDA rule requires treatment with a toxic gas (propylene oxide) or steam heat for all raw almonds produced by American growers and sold commercially to domestic consumers.
Eighteen California almond farmers and wholesale nut handlers are the formal legal parties suing the USDA to overturn the rule. Their businesses and farming practices have been ruined by the rule, they charge. The Cornucopia Institute, a family farmer watchdog group, is helping coordinate the legal strategy. It’s an expensive process and Cornucopia is working to help raise money for legal costs associated with repealing the almond treatment mandate.
In late December, the USDA moved to dismiss the court challenge on procedural grounds. It’s a move that Cornucopia lawyers anticipated and they expect will be rejected.
The case is growing in importance as federal regulators weigh a number of other onerous food safety treatment plans for the nation’s fresh vegetables, fruit and nuts. If allowed to stand as a precedent, the USDA and the FDA will be further encouraged to apply similar treatment schemes to many fresh foods.
“We have a very strong legal case,” says Will Fantle, Cornucopia’s Research Director. “It appears that USDA clearly exceeded its regulatory authority with this rule and bungled its enactment. But we need to make sure that we have the necessary financial resources to have our say in court and to prosecute this case to the fullest extent.”
Fantle suggests that the USDA and FDA should instead focus food safety efforts on proper management of the mountains of manure created by the nation’s livestock factory farms. Many believe that dangerous E. coli and Salmonella bacteria contained in the manure are escaping into the water, air and land of our agricultural regions and contaminating other food crops.
Cornucopia is asking those interested in protecting access to truly raw and fresh foods to support the almond farmers and handlers with their lawsuit. Online donations can be made at www.cornucopia.org (please note that the donation is in support of the almond lawsuit). Updates and news on the almond issue can also be found under The Authentic Almond Project on Cornucopia’s web page.
– Mark Kastel, The Cornucopia Institute