(Dec. 18) The Almond Board of California, Modesto, has taken what may be the final step in implementing a mandatory pasteurization program for the state’s $2.5 billion almond crop.

The goal of the program is to minimize the potential for salmonella, said Merle Jacobs, the board’s associate director of industry relations, food quality and safety.

“We recognized that if we didn’t do something, the regulators would come in and do it for us,” Jacobs said.

The plan was printed in the Federal Register Dec. 6, Jacobs said. A 45-day comment period started on the publication date. If the U.S. Department of Agriculture receives no strong objections, Jacobs said the plan could go into effect in August, the start of California’s next almond season.

The publication of the program is the final step after two years of research and consultation that Jacobs said cost the board $1.3 million. He said officials from the University of California-Davis and Rutgers University participated in the research.

“We know we are not going to eliminate all of the risks,” Jacobs said, “but we are committed to doing everything possible to reduce them.”

The board’s program does not require specific processes for combating salmonella. Instead, Jacobs said the program would permit designers and manufacturers to submit their plans and equipment to the board’s technology expert review panel, which includes specialists in microbiology and thermal processing.

Designs and equipment that meet the panel’s standards would be approved for use in the industry, he said.