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FDA issues pistachio warning

A California processor is recalling 2 million pounds of the nuts, which may be tainted with salmonella.

March 31, 2009|Associated Press

FRESNO — Federal food safety officials warned Monday that consumers should stop eating all foods containing pistachios while they determine the source of a possible salmonella contamination.

Still reeling from the national salmonella outbreak in peanuts, the Food and Drug Administration said central California-based Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella Inc., the nation's second-largest pistachio processor, was voluntarily recalling a portion of the roasted nuts it has been shipping since last fall. A Setton spokeswoman said that amounts to more than 2 million pounds of nuts.

"Our advice to consumers is that they avoid eating pistachio products, and that they hold on to those products," said Dr. David Acheson, the FDA's assistant commissioner for food safety. "The number of products that are going to be recalled . . . will grow, simply because these pistachio nuts have then been repackaged into consumer-level containers."

Two people called the FDA complaining of gastrointestinal illness that could be associated with the nuts, but the link hasn't been confirmed, Acheson said. Still, the plant decided to shut down late last week, officials said.

The recalled nuts represent a small fraction of the 55 million pounds of pistachios that the company's plant processed last year and an even smaller portion of the 278 million pounds produced in the state in the 2008 season, according to the Fresno-based Administrative Committee for Pistachios.

California is the second-largest producer of pistachios in the world.

The FDA learned about the problem March 24, when Kraft Foods Inc. notified the agency that it had detected salmonella in roasted pistachios through routine product testing. Kraft and the Georgia Nut Co. recalled their Back to Nature Nantucket Blend trail mix the next day.

The FDA contacted Setton Pistachio and California health officials shortly afterward.

By Friday, grocer Kroger Co. recalled one of its lines of bagged pistachios because of possible salmonella contamination, saying the California plant supplied its nuts.

Salmonella, the most common cause of food-borne illness, is a bacteria that 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.

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