Salmonella Found in Central California Pistachio Plant

By | April 8, 2009

Federal officials confirmed they found traces of salmonella in a central California pistachio processing plant that sparked a nationwide recall of the nut.

The Food and Drug Administration said state and federal inspectors found the bacteria in “critical areas” at Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella Inc., the second-largest pistachio processor in the nation.

FDA officials also said they found places at the facility where raw and roasted nuts could have become cross-contaminated with salmonella.

Setton Pistachio, which sells its nuts to Kraft Foods Inc. and 35 other wholesalers across the country, temporarily shut down after voluntarily recalling more than 2 million pounds of nuts last week.

The company expanded its recall of pistachios to include all roasted, shelled pistachios, roasted in-shell pistachios and raw shelled pistachios from its 2008 crop. A company spokeswoman did not immediately return messages seeking further details.

Federal regulators say consumers should avoid eating pistachios or foods made with the nuts until they can determine that they don’t contain any nuts that Setton has recalled. The FDA also advised wholesalers, retailers, and operators of restaurants and food service establishments against selling or serving any pistachios or pistachio products until they can figure out whether they came from Setton.

No illnesses from consumers eating tainted pistachios have been reported.

Pistachios are used in everything from ice cream to cake mixes, and the FDA believes more recalls are imminent.

Salmonella, the most common cause of food-borne illness, causes diarrhea, fever and cramping. Most people recover, but the infection can be life-threatening for children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.

Roasting is supposed to kill the bacteria in nuts. But problems can occur if the roasting is not done correctly or if roasted nuts are re-contaminated.

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