Pistachio Producer Recalls Entire 2008 Crop; Grocers Remove More Products From Their Shelves

April 8, 2009

Faced with evidence of salmonella contamination, the nation’s second-largest producer of pistachios has recalled its entire 2008 crop, complicating work for grocers in Harris County and elsewhere as a list of products containing those nuts lengthens.


Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration has softened an earlier warning against eating any pistachios. Now the agency says consumers shouldn’t eat the nuts or any related products “until they can determine that the products do not contain pistachios recalled by” Setton International Foods.


Setton expanded the recall of pistachios processed at its Terra Bella, Calif., plant after the Food and Drug Administration shared information with the company indicating “the presence of salmonella in critical areas of the facility and the potential for cross-contamination between raw and roasted products,” the FDA said.


Setton’s recall now inlcudes all lots of roasted in-shell pistachios and roasted shelled pistachios produced from nuts harvested in 2008.


Setton sells its products mostly to three dozen wholesalers, and the pistachios are used in a wide variety of products.


The FDA’s list of  recalled pistachio products has begun growing more quickly over the past two days, approaching 30 products.


The recall list contains branded pistachio products from Kroger Co. and Whole Foods Market, both of whom operate local grocery stores.


In an attempt to limit damage that the recall has caused to its industry, pistachio growers’ associations have established www.pistachiorecall.org which they say lists companies whose pistachios and pistachio products are not subject to recall.


The expanding pistachio recall still is dwarfed, however, compared with a recent recall of possibly contaminated peanut butter and related products originating from Georgia and Texas plants operated by now-bankrupt Peanut Corporation of America.


The FDA’s list of recalled peanut products now numbers 3,893.  Inspections of PCA’s plants found salmonella and unsanitary conditions.


Hundreds of people became ill as a result of eating tainted peanut butter or related products late last year and early in 2009, and nine deaths were associated with the PCA recall.


By contrast, while the FDA has acknowledged receiving complaints from people who believe they got sick from eating pistachios, none has been positively linked to the nut recall so far.