The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) alerted consumers on Monday that together with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), they are investigating Salmonella contamination in pistachio products made at a Californian plant and that the producer is voluntarily recalling about 1 million pounds of pistachio products.
The company at the center of the FDA investigation, Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella Inc, California has also stopped all distribution of processed pistachios. The recall is likely to affect many products because pistachios are used as an ingredient in many foods. Plus, said the FDA, as the investigation is still ongoing, there may be further recalls of other pistachio products.
According to a CNN report, the plant is about 75 miles south of Fresno, and the suspect pistachios were mostly packed and distributed in 2,000-pound containers. These would be shipped to food wholesalers who would either re-package them for sale or use them as ingredients in other products, for instance ice cream and trail mix.
About three dozen companies buy pistachios from Setton Farms, according to CNN.
The FDA first learned of the problem on 24th March when Kraft Foods told them they found Salmonella in its Back to Nature Trail Mix and had traced the source to pistachios that it bought from Setton. Kraft then recalled potentially affected products.
According to a CBS report, Kroger also bought pistachios from Setton and has recalled some pistachio products. The grocery operator sells nuts in 31 states.
Salmonella is a bacteria that can cause fatal infections in young children, the elderly and people with weak immune systems, for instance if they are having chemo or have AIDS.
The FDA said consumers have reported several illnesses that could be linked to contaminated pistachios, but the agency said it was too early to tell if there is an outbreak that is linked to the several strains of Salmonella found in the pistachios. They are still carrying out tests and will keep the public informed, they said.
The FDA said they are working closely with the pistachio industry and recommend that consumers don’t eat any products containing pistachios until the situation becomes clearer and they know which products are affected and which are safe.
According to CBS News, FDA director of food safety, Dr David Acheson, said the contaminated pistachios are not linked to the recent outbreak of salmonella in peanuts.
The agency is compiling a searchable database of affected products at http://www.fda.gov.