Magazine Profiles the Almond Industry's Scope And Commitment to Food Safety

Posted September 8th, 2016

The origins of California’s agricultural boom harken back to the 1850s, during the Gold Rush. And now, our state is the nation’s leading agricultural and food manufacturing powerhouse, and it sets the “gold” standard for food quality and safety.

In its recent article “California’s Abundant Agricultural Commodities Stay Gold,” Food Safety and Quality Magazine quotes two leading university researchers in examining a variety of the state’s leading crops, including almonds.

Alan Olmstead, PhD, a distinguished research professor in the Department of Economics at the University of California, Davis (UC, Davis) and Paul Rhode, PhD, a professor of economics at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, note that, “In recent years, this one state alone has accounted for one-tenth of the value of the nation’s agricultural output.”

The article states that this agricultural abundance creates a great need for outstanding food quality and safety systems, “and the Golden State shines in this regard.”

Citing productions and acreage statistics from Almond Board of California (ABC) , the magazine notes that almonds are California’s largest tree nut crop in acreage and total dollar value, not to mention the Golden State’s top agricultural export and the largest U.S. specialty crop export.

Quoting Tim Birmingham, ABC director of quality assurance and industry services, the story examines the industry’s response to two salmonella outbreaks between 2001 and 2003.  “The California almond industry embraced these food safety challenges with a proactive approach,” the article states.

“These outbreaks were really a watershed moment for the low moisture food industry,” Birmingham emphasizes in the article. “At the time, conventional wisdom held that low moisture foods, almonds for just one, posed little food safety risk due to the fact that pathogens including Salmonella did not grow on products such as almonds. However, it turns out that pathogens can, indeed, survive in low moisture food products, and in some cases, even with low levels, cause illness.”

After making the determination regarding the low level of Salmonella contamination, the article mentions the industry’s promulgation of groundbreaking mandatory pasteurization of almonds for Salmonella reduction.  Pasteurization now is required by law in the U.S, Canada, and Mexico.

In the article, Birmingham said ABC is proud of its commitment to food safety and strives to be a leader in low moisture food safety.

“To that end, we will continue to offer tools and resources rooted in research, in order to ensure the safety of almonds,” he told the magazine. “We see it as our responsibility to provide consumers in the U.S. and around the world with a safe, pathogen-free, nutritious food product.”

Read the entire article here.

Food Safety