A new chemical-free process for pasteurizing almonds was recently approved by a technical review panel of the Almond Board of California.

RF Biocidics, the company behind the technology, said that the Technical Expert Review Panel validated its Generation 3 Apex system after reviewing third-party test results showing that the process effectively eliminates pathogens like Salmonella from almonds.

Unlike traditional pasteurization methods that use steam and chemical treatments, the Apex system employs volumetric heating to remove pests and bacteria using radio frequency waves. According to a report in the Central Valley Business Journal, this process alters the cells’ metabolism, effectively removing bacteria, molds, insects and other undesirable elements without changing the nutrient content and taste.

“That’s our strategy,” explained RF Biocidics’ CEO Craig Powell. “We want to provide a chemical-free solution that also does minimal impact on the sensory nature of the almonds.”

Powell described the Almond Board of California’s approval as “a very important milestone”.

Entry-level Apex pasteurization machines can process 2,000-3,000 pounds of almonds per hour, and they can be scaled up to process more. Prices start at about $1 million.

Speaking to Food Safety News, Tim Birmingham, director of quality assurance and industry services for the Almond Board in Modesto, Calif., said: “They’re not cheap investments, but another outbreak could really devastate this industry. With [Food Safety Modernization Act rules] coming on board, too, other commodities, other nut groups and low-moisture food groups are going to have to start making this investment.”