Did you know that it is mandatory for U.S. almonds to be pasteurized?
As a result of a handful of salmonella outbreaks, the Almond Board of California (the governing body of virtually all U.S. almond growers and handlers) and the USDA ruled in 2007 that almond growers within this country must pasteurize almonds for sale within the United States. Pasteurization is the process of heating foods to high temperatures in order to kill microorganisms. Pasteurization of almonds involves either a steaming process or treatment with propylene oxide gas (once used as racing fuel). Doesn't sound so natural does it?
So when you buy almonds today that carry the "raw" label, they aren't raw in actuality. They've been pasteurized using one of the processes outlined above. There is a loophole however. Grocers can import raw almonds from other countries. Not so good for reducing your carbon footprint, but one of the few ways to get around it at the moment. These almonds are usually labeled unpasteurized or "really raw" and list the country of origin. There are also some domestic growers who sell raw almonds directly but who knows how long they will be able to do so. Again, in this case if they are really raw they will specifically say so. It's really a shame. There is so much natural goodness in raw almonds that you can't get from the pasteurized version and the taste is completely different too.
Also noteworthy is the fact that cashews labeled raw are generally not raw either. They are usually boiled or steamed in oil to help remove toxins from the outer shell of the cashew. They do sell some really raw hand polished cashews and there are companies that utilize special technology to make sure the toxins don't touch the nut itself. But unfortunately these aren't the varieties they sell in most grocery stores.