It’s still too soon to determine how the pistachio recall due to potential salmonella contamination will affect California’s pistachio industry.
No confirmed illnesses have been linked to pistachios and this is a voluntary recall by Setton Pistachio by Terra Bella, Inc., Terra Bella, Calif. However, the CAL-PURE co-op of California pistachio growers and the Western Pistachio Association established a Web site April 4 to help bolster consumer confidence in the product.
The Web site — www.pistachiorecall.org — lists processors from the pistachio-producing states of California, Arizona and New Mexico which report that their products contain no pistachios from Setton. What’s more, a link to the site has been added to the FDA Web site listing recalled pistachio products — www.fda.gov/pistachios/
“Including our link on their Web site is an unprecedented move by the FDA,” says Richard Matoian, executive director of the Western Pistachio Association, Fresno, Calif. “It’s the result of a lot of discussions we had with FDA officials to help them appreciate how a recall that affects only a small portion of the 280-million-pound 2008 crop could affect consumer confidence in the entire industry. This Web site is part of our effects to educate the public about the situation.”
On March 31, Setton recalled more than 2 million pounds of roasted pistachios from certain lots of the 2008 crop — less than 5 percent of the company’s total annual volume.
That same day, U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials warned consumers to temporarily stop eating all foods containing pistachios.
On April 6, Setton expanded its recall to include all lots of roasted in-shell pistachios, roasted shelled pistachios and raw shelled pistachios from the 2008 crop that are not subsequently roasted prior to retail sale.
Now, the FDA is advising consumers not to eat pistachios or food products containing the nuts until they can determine that the products do not contain pistachios recalled by Setton.
In the meantime, FDA and the California Department of Public Health are investigating salmonella contamination in pistachios sold by Setton. The contamination involves multiple strains of salmonella, which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems
Matoian continues to monitor Web sites, blogs and social networking sites for reaction to the recall. It ranges from those who are sympathetic to the fact that only some products have been affected to those who are outraged with the industry, he reports.
Also, it’s unclear how the recall is affecting movement of pistachios.
“We get reports that some retailers have pulled pistachio products off the shelf or have delayed deliveries,” Matoian says. “But, at the same time, we hear of other retailers who are accepting deliveries and restocking their shelves with pistachios.”