FDA warns operators as pistachio recall grows

WASHINGTON Federal officials advised foodservice operators not to sell items made with pistachios until they are certain those products do not contain nuts from Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella Inc., which this week widened its recall over concerns of a salmonella contamination.

Setton Pistachio on March 30 recalled certain lots of shelled and in-shell roasted pistachios from the 2008 harvest because third-party testing showed that some nuts were contaminated with multiple strains of salmonella. After FDA and California Department of Public Health investigators uncovered several possible salmonella contamination points in Setton Pistachio’s Terra Bella processing plant, the company on Monday widened the recall to include all roasted pistachios from the 2008 crop as well as raw shelled nuts.

The FDA, which last week advised consumers to hold off eating foods with pistachios until they could determine the source of the nuts, this week specifically addressed operators.

“The FDA is advising wholesalers, retailers, and operators of restaurants and food service establishments not to sell or serve any pistachios or pistachio-containing products until the source of the pistachios can be determined,” the agency said in a notice updated Tuesday. “Firms should check with their suppliers to determine whether the source of the pistachios is Setton. If the source is Setton and the products are subject to this recall, then the pistachios and pistachio products should not be sold.”

Because Setton sold the pistachios in question to more than 30 wholesalers and repackagers, and because the pistachios were used as ingredients in a variety of foods, the expanded Setton Pistachio recall will affect many products and is expected to result in other recalls, FDA sources said. They said the agency has created a searchable database of recalled products, including baked goods, candies and ice creams, at http://www.fda.gov/pistachios/ [3].

FDA representatives said Monday that pistachio trade groups posted on www.pistachiorecall.org [4] a list of products they say do not contain Setton Pistachio nuts. However, the FDA said it had not verified the information on the list.

According to the FDA, information from a joint FDA and California Department of Public Health inspection of Setton’s Terra Bella plant “indicates the presence of salmonella in critical areas of the facility and the potential for cross-contamination between raw and roasted products.” Once the public health agencies shared this information with Setton, the company chose to expand its recall, the FDA said.

The FDA said consumers have reported several illnesses that may be associated with the pistachios, but that it is not yet known if the salmonella strains found in Setton Pistachio's products were involved. The agency said it is conducting genetic testing of the samples to pursue all links.

Setton Pistachio, reportedly the nation's second-largest processor of pistachios, is a division of Setton International Foods Inc. of Commack, N.Y.

Contact Alan J. Liddle at [email protected] [5].