In June 2016, the macro image became popular (probably due to a simultaneous rumor of cancer) on social media, believing The bitter almond was banned all over the United States since 1995 because it contains high levels of vitamin B17 that fight cancer ( also known as laetrile):
The claim was old, arguing that bitter almond tree was banned in the United States, that a ban was made in a particular year (1995) that the prohibited substance contained levels of vitamin B17 that are sufficient to prevent and treat cancer. FDA explicitly and undoubtedly forbid the plant just because it can save people’s lives by fighting against cancer.

The first is whether the bitter almond trees are banned in the United States (by the Food and Drug Administration or any other agency) since 1995. We did not find any evidence to confirm this. The 2002 Los Angeles Times article refers to this rumor and concludes that the FDA only banned the sale of bitter almonds for “unlimited use”:

Paul Schrade … fell in love with the powerful, unique taste of bitter almonds, which gives marzipan and almond milk its distinctive taste. Even after being told that raw bitter almonds contained a form of cyanide and were illegal in the United States, Schrade was fascinated.

In the United States, the lack of clear information on the legal status of bitter almonds reduced their cultivation, trade and use. There are no stores that regularly stock bitter almonds, so chefs who are looking for them had to rely, like Woods on seedlings that grow wild along streams, roads, and railroads.

Over the years, Schrade has made dozens of inquiries from federal and state health authorities on the legality of bitter almonds, but never received the ultimate answer. Recently, however, a friend directed him to the Food and Drug Administration website, stating: “Because of their toxicity, bitter almonds can not be sold in the United States for unlimited use.” However, the Drug Administration regulations allow the bitter almond, and urge producers to use nuts as long as their products do not contain more than a minute of safe levels of hydrocyanic acid.

The FDA recently explained the position of the agency, saying it would allow bitter almonds to be sent to interstate professional cooks and bakers until their dishes cooked to be non-toxic. However, Drug Administration Web said it would take “appropriate actions” against sellers who are determined to sell bitter almonds to the public in such a way that they can easily be replaced by plain almonds. These actions may include warnings or product seizures.

The article also states that the California Department of Health Services (and not the federal agency) regulates the breeding and sale of bitter almonds in the country, and that both are allowed (with some warnings):

Jason Vale, President of New York Christian Brothers Contracting Corp., was sentenced on 18 June 2004 to 63 months in prison and 3 years of supervised release by the United States District Court in the eastern district of New York.
“There is no scientific evidence that laetrile offers cure,it is a false hope to cancer patients, some of whom used it instead of conventional treatment until it was too late to treat it effectively,” said Dr. Lester M. Crawford, Acting FDA Commissioner. “This sentence sends a strong message that we will not tolerate the marketing of false drugs.”

After an investigation conducted by the FDA, USAO and USPIS, the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York put Vale’s illegal sale and promotion of laetrile – also known as amygdalin, “Vitamin B-17” or apricot – banned in April 2000. When rejecting a court order, Vale founded the corporation in Arizona and continued to deliver a product from his cellar to clients.For these activities, Vale was found guilty of three counts of charges for the criminal act of contempt of court 11 months ago and was ordered to be held without bail until convicted.

Last week, the court also found that Vale, who earned at least $ 500,000 from illegal laetrile sales, committed fraud in laetrile marketing. As a result, Valeu was ordered to compensate the Government for $ 31,000 for the expenses of the named defense attorney.

The FDA regulates interstate trade in food products, but bitter almonds that are grown and sold in California fall under the authority of the State Health Service, which takes a less restrictive approach to retail.
James Waddell, Acting Head of the Department of Nutrition and Drugs, says the agency does not have a specific regulation covering bitter almonds, but that the nuts can be sold in accordance with the rule on bitter seeds of apricot, which requires that the packages bear the mark: “It can be toxic; Very small amounts can cause reactions. “

The consequence is that Californian breeders and suppliers are allowed to sell properly labeled packages of bitter almonds.

In the 2004 release, the FDA highlighted cases when cancer patients relied on laetrile to the point where their illnesses could no longer be treated, and the prosecution of those who sold the substance were directed at preventing poisoning and prevention cancer patients with supplements. The National Cancer Institute holds similarly that “Laetril has shown a small anti-cancer effect in laboratory studies, animal studies or in human studies”, and researchers observed in 1981 that:

Despite promoters’ claims, Laetril must be one of the most thoroughly studied ingredients that have never been qualified for FDA approval for human investigation under the Federal Law on Food, Medicines and Cosmetics. In 23 different animal tumor models, laetrile did not consistently demonstrate any reproductive benefit. They represent all standard systems for animal tumors, and many of these studies have been performed with extreme precision. All currently recognized anti-cancer drugs have shown efficacy in at least some of these models … implicitly it would seem that [ Laetrile advocates] agree that laetrile can not prove to be effective in animal studies.

The government banned an agricultural product at the national level simply because its derivatives can be useful in preventing or fighting cancer, which makes no sense outside the circle of alternative medicine that regularly argues that a potent cancer industry suppresses anti-cancer drugs from reaching the public in order to generate a larger profits for those involved in current forms of diagnosis and treatment of cancer. If the United States banned bitter almonds solely because of their efficacy in treating cancer, then we would see that American cancer patients with cancer are go to the foreign countries to treat it, but they do not do it. Laetril has long been exposed on research, not a legitimate cancer treatment.

On 1 July 2016, a representative of the FDA responded to our inquiry and confirmed that the agency did not have the authority to “ban” the bitter almond tree growth within the United States. The scope of their regulatory practices relates exclusively to food, drugs and the way in which the substances are sold, with the voluntary withdrawal of organic raw almonds (for increased content of natural cyanide hydrogen) from 2014, which serves as an example of the authority of the FDA exercise in terms of food safety.

Not is it true that the FDA banned the bitter almond trees nor suppressed the use of fruits. Bitter almond trees are cultivated in agriculture in California, and although the sale of their seeds is somewhat limited, this restriction also aims to prevent the sale of inefficient products to cancer patients and protect consumers from taking high levels of toxic hydrocyanic acid.

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