California Almonds: The “Ne Plus Ultra” of Quality Control

Posted July 1st, 2016

Thanks to the California almond industry’s quality control programs, consumers around the world enjoy the consistent high quality and safety of California almonds. In fact, the food safety program established by Almond Board of California (ABC) is held up as a prime example in the produce industry. You might say, like two of California’s most popular almond varieties, it is “Nonpareil” and the “Ne Plus Ultra” of quality control.

Efforts to preserve the quality and safety of California almonds have a long history at ABC, although not as long as the history of the Nonpareil and Ne Plus Ultra almond varieties, which were selected for commercialization at the Sacramento Citrus Fair in 1886 for their distinctive and desirable qualities.

Between 1976, when the Quality Control Committee was formed, and today, hundreds of food safety research projects have been conducted, resulting in programs such as:

  • Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) for Almond Growers. The first line of defense for protecting California almonds from contamination is the implementation of GAPs, which are guidelines for growers on how to minimize potential hazards during production, and to recognize and address sources of potential contamination.  
  • Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for Almond Processors. GMPs define procedures to be used by processors to allow almonds to be processed, packed and sold under sanitary conditions. It includes guidelines and mandates for sanitation, hazard analysis and pathogen environmental monitoring.
  • Pasteurization Program. The final step before shipping California almonds to customers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico is pasteurization, which reduces the risk of contamination. Almond handlers’ pasteurization processes have been approved by the USDA and FDA, and do not affect almonds’ nutritional value or sensory qualities (like taste and crunch).

Food safety advances are constantly unfolding; however, as new challenges arise,  research is targeted to resolve issues of growing and processing almonds. To present highlights of these advancements in food safety technology, the Almond Board hosts an annual Food Quality and Safety Symposium. The symposium covers everything from technologies in the orchard to end processing, and is a key opportunity for growers and processors alike to share their experiences and to learn about current issues from food safety professionals.

The 18th annual Food Quality and Safety Symposium was held in Modesto, California on June 16 this year, demonstrating the longstanding commitment of the California Almond industry to grow and produce almonds in a safe and responsible manner, and to provide consumers around the world with the highest level of confidence in our product.

Attendees at this symposium were eager to hear from an impressive lineup of Food and Drug Administration representatives and other food safety experts on what lies ahead for the California Almond industry as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules go into effect.

“We’ve really come together as an industry by putting together many food safety programs, and as a result we’re leading the way in so many areas that what FSMA is requiring is really not new,” said Brian Dunning, chairman of the Almond Board’s Almond Quality and Food Safety Committee, as he opened the program. “We’ve been building the foundation [for FSMA compliance] for many, many years. We now have a great foundation to start, and we want to build on that foundation. There’s always work to be done, and that’s what we do every year.”