FDA: Stop Eating Pistachios, Salmonella Feared
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Daniel J. DeNoon
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April 1, 2009 — Stop eating pistachio nuts, the FDA says. They may carry food-poisoning salmonella bacteria.
The new salmonella scare -- this time in pistachio nuts -- has led Kroger Co. to recall pistachios sold in 31 states. Because the nuts came from a large shipment of 1 million pounds of pistachio nuts sold to 36 different wholesalers nationwide, more recalls are expected, says David Acheson, MD, the FDA's associate commissioner for foods.
"Our advice to consumers is to avoid eating pistachio products," Acheson said in a news conference. "Just hold onto them to see if they are involved in the recall."
The only recalls to date have been in roasted shelled pistachios sold separately or in a brand of trail mix. But pending an investigation, products as diverse as cake mix and ice cream may yet be recalled, Jeff Farrar, PhD, DVM, MPH, chief of the food branch of the California Department of Health, said at the news conference.
The salmonella has nothing to do with the ongoing outbreak of salmonella poisoning from peanuts. Unlike the peanut outbreak, the pistachio contamination was discovered during routine testing by Kraft Foods -- before anyone was known to have been sickened. The FDA has at least two unconfirmed reports of sickness in people who ate pistachios, but those cases have not yet been linked to the types of salmonella found in pistachio nuts.
"We are not dealing with an outbreak here," Acheson said. "This is a proactive action by the firm."
The nuts came from Setton Farms of Terra Bella, Calif., which ships 600 million pounds of pistacho nuts each year. Testing of roasted pistachios detected four strains of salmonella; these strains do not match the salmonella strain behind the peanut outbreak.
The Kroger recall follows close on the heels of last week's pistachio recalls by the Georgia Nut Company of Skokie, Ill.; and the Back to Nature Foods Co. of Madison, Wis., a Kraft Foods subsidiary.
Kroger spokeswoman Denise Osterhues tells WebMD that Kroger was notified of the possible salmonella contamination by Setton Farms. Setton Farms also supplied the pistachio nuts implicated in last week's recall. Acheson and Farrar praised the firm for its cooperation, which has extended to recalling trucks already en route to wholesalers.
The California Department of Public Health and the FDA are now conducting a joint investigation of the Sutton Farms facility.
The recalled Kroger product is called Private Selection Shelled Pistachios. It's sold in 10-ounce containers with a "sell by" date of DEC-13-09 and DEC-14-09. The packages carry the UPS Code 11110 73615.
The nuts were sold in Kroger Co. stores with 17 different names: Kroger, Ralphs, Fred Meyer, Fry's, King Soopers, Smith's, Dillons, QFC, City Market, Foods Co., Jay C, Scott's, Owen's, Baker's, Gerbes, Hilander, and Pay Less.
Kroger's Food 4 Less stores did not carry the recalled pistachio nuts.
Stores affected by the recall are in Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Kroger warns customers who bought this product not to eat the nuts. The company is offering a full refund or replacement for packages returned to stores.
The source of the pistachio nuts recalled by Kroger has not been revealed.
The Georgia Nut company supplied the nuts used in a Back to Nature Foods product. Those nuts were obtained from an unnamed supplier in California, a Georgia Nut spokesman told WebMD last week.
The suspected salmonella contamination of pistachio nuts has not been linked to the ongoing nationwide outbreak of salmonella linked to Georgia peanuts.
Salmonella infection can cause fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Most people recover within a week without medicine, but severe and even life-threatening complications can arise; young children, frail or elderly people, and people with weak immune systems are more vulnerable.
News conference, March 30, 2009, with David Acheson, MD, associate commissioner for foods, FDA; and Jeff Farrar, PhD, DVM, MPH, chief, food branch, California Department of Health.
WebMD Health News: "Pistachios Recalled on Salmonella Fears."
News release, FDA.
News release, Kroger Co.
Denise Osterhues, spokesperson, Kroger Co.
News release, California Department of Public Health