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FDA announces pistachio recall

March 31, 2009
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Federal food officials are now warning people not to eat any food containing pistachios, which could be contaminated with Salmonella.

The Food and Drug Administration said central California-based Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella Inc., the nation’s second-largest pistachio processor, was voluntarily recalling more than 2 million pounds of its roasted nuts shipped since last fall, the Associated Press reported.

“Our advice to consumers is that they avoid eating pistachio products, and that they hold onto those products,” said David Acheson, assistant commissioner for food safety. “The number of products that are going to be recalled over the coming days will grow, simply because these pistachio nuts have then been repackaged into consumer-level containers.”

Two people called the FDA complaining of gastrointestinal illness that could be associated with the nuts, but the link hasn’t been confirmed, Acheson said. The recalled nuts represent a small fraction of the 55 million pounds of pistachios the company processed last year; 278 million pounds of the nuts were produced in California – the world’s second-largest pistachio producer – in 2008, according to the Fresno-based Administrative Committee for Pistachios.

Setton Pistachio is part of Commack, N.Y.-based Setton International Foods Inc. The company sells nuts, dried fruit, edible seeds, chocolate and yogurt-coated candies.

The FDA learned about the problem last Tuesday, when Kraft Foods Inc. notified the agency that it had detected Salmonella in roasted pistachios through routine product testing, according to AP reports. Kraft and the Georgia Nut Co. recalled their Back to Nature Nantucket Blend trail mix the next day. The FDA contacted Setton Pistachio and California health officials shortly afterward.

By Friday, national supermarket chain Kroger recalled one of its lines of bagged pistachios, sold in 31 states, because of possible contamination. Fabia D’Arienzo, a spokeswoman for Tulare County-based Setton Pistachio, told the AP the company was only recalling certain bulk roasted in-shell and roasted shelled pistachios that were shipped on or after Sept. 1.

Because Setton Pistachio shipped tote bags of nuts weighing up to 2,000 pounds to 36 wholesalers across the country, it will take weeks to figure out how many products could be affected, said Jeff Farrar, chief of the Food and Drug Branch of the California Department of Public Health. “It will be safe to assume based on the volume that this will be an ingredient in a lot of different products, and that may possibly include things like ice cream and cake mixes,” Farrar said.

For the latest recall information, visit www.fda.gov.

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