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Pistachios Named in Latest Salmonella Scare

Mar 31, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP Consumers nationwide are being warned to avoid pistachios and pistachio-containing products.  According to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) pistachios made by the nation's second largest producer - Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella Inc - may be tainted with salmonella.  The California-based company is recalling 1 million pounds of the nuts.

According to the FDA, this pistachio recall is in no way related to the Peanut Corp. of America (PCA) salmonella outbreak that we have been following for the past several months.  No illnesses have yet been linked to salmonella-tainted pistachios, but federal regulators are investigating several suspected cases.  

In its health alert, the FDA said the pistachio contamination involves multiple strains of salmonella. Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

The pistachio salmonella scare has already led Kroger stores to recall pistachios it sold in 31 states.  As we reported last week, both the Georgia Nut Company and the Kraft subsidiary, the  Back to Nature Foods Company,  had recalled some pistachio-containing products after lab tests confirmed the presence of salmonella in some pistachios.  

According to the FDA, it became aware of the pistachio problem on March 24 after Kraft informed it that the Back to Nature Foods Company trail mix was found to be contaminated with salmonella.  Kraft had identified the source of the contamination to be pistachios from Setton Pistachio, the FDA said.

According to the FDA, the Setton Pistachio recall involves certain bulk roasted in-shell and roasted shelled pistachios that were shipped on or after September 1.  The FDA is working closely with the pistachio industry and recommends that consumers avoid eating pistachio products until further information is available about the scope of affected products.

Because the pistachios were used as ingredients in a variety of foods, it is likely this recall will impact many products, the FDA said.   In addition, the investigation at the company is ongoing and may lead to additional pistachio product recalls.  According to a report on, Setton Pistachio shipped tote bags of nuts weighing up to 2,000 pounds to 36 wholesalers across the country.  A representative from the California Health Department told that it could take weeks to determine how many products might be impacted, and said the list is likely to include everything from cake mixes to ice creams.

This salmonella pistachio recall is reminiscent of the PCA peanut recalls. The salmonella outbreak caused by those tainted products is still ongoing, and has been linked to at last 690 illnesses and 9 deaths.  It has also resulted in more than 3,900 recalls of peanut-containing products.  

The FDA had to set up a searchable database on its website to help consumers track PCA-related recalls.  According to the agency, it now plans to do the same for pistachio product recalls.

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