There's a jar of nut butter in nine out of 10 Canadian homes. But besides allergies to nuts, there are pesticides, irradiation and toxic moulds to think about. Ecoholic breaks down your risk.
That creamy smoothness in brands like Kraft comes from highly genetically modified ingredients like soybean oil and corn maltodextrin, as well as crappy "hydrogenated vegetable oil" from pesticide-heavy cotton seed and rapeseed oil. Even "all-natural" varieties may contain pesticide residues. In fact, a 1990s study of the Canadian diet found peanut butter (and butter) were the most frequently contaminated with pesticides. If you're diggin' peanut butter, it's best to stick to certified organic store-bought varieties. Of all the nuts the canadian food inspection agency tests for carcinogenic aflatoxin moulds, peanuts products are most likely to test positive. However, jarred varieties have to fall under 15 parts per billion. Still, best to keep your nut butters in the fridge. My faves, like Canadian-owned Nuts to You (which gets most of its peanuts from the u.s. or south america) or MaraNatha, come in glass jars. Note: some MaraNatha peanut butters are now being recalled.
Rumour has it that U.S. almonds are zapped with radiation, but that's not the case. The truth is, California does demand they be pasteurized to prevent salmonella outbreaks. Chemical pasteurization with propylene oxide is one way to do it, but the process doesn't meet organic standards. MaraNatha uses quick steam treatments instead on both its regular, organic and raw (unroasted) almond butters. Nuts to you can't promise the same for its "natural" almond butter (from california), but its organic version (from european almonds) is only heat-pasteurized. Keep in mind that MaraNatha, Whole Foods, Safeway and others just had a whack of almond butters recalled.
GRIND YOUR OWN
Just because your local health store offers grind-your-own nut butters doesn't mean they're automatically healthy. Studies of nuts and nut butters have found that health store grind-your-own varieties often have the highest levels of aflatoxins, since they sit around unsealed and unrefrigerated longer and aren't tested for aflatoxins the way jarred nuts are. If you're going to grind your own at health stores, inquire about nut turnover. Those doing DIY grinding at home should double-check nut freshness, too.