U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version


Document Type



Agricultural Research Magazine 60(2): February 2012 pp. 20-22; ISSN 0002-161X


Crisp, crunchy almonds make a tasty and nutritious snack any time.

In Albany, California, investigators Zhongli Pan and Maria T. Brandl are collaborating in leading-edge studies that explore the use of a still-evolving technology, infrared heating, to help make sure almonds remain safe to eat.

The federal government, the U.S. almond industry, and food safety researchers are keeping an especially watchful eye on Salmonella enterica.

It’s generally thought that almonds are not naturally contaminated with high levels of this pathogen. Nevertheless, all almonds processed for sale in the United States today have to be pasteurized in order to zap Salmonella. The pasteurization procedure has to be powerful enough to reduce Salmonella population levels by a 4-log minimum. That’s a 10,000-fold decrease.

Nearly half a dozen methods already have federal approval for accomplishing this mandatory pasteurization. But many almond processors remain eager to learn about promising new options, including infrared heating. Pan, an engineer with ARS’s Western Regional Research Center in Albany, says several processors have expressed an interest in the series of infrared heating studies that he and Brandl, a microbiologist at the center, began in 2006.