Despite Known Pistachio Problems, Manufacturer Continued Shipments

FDA investigators have discovered that the manufacturer of tainted pistachio nuts that were recalled earlier this year, continued shipping their nuts for several months after they first learned about potential problems with contamination that could cause consumers to suffer salmonella poisoning.

According to the Associated Press, inspectors of a California plant say that Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella, Inc. continued to ship pistachios for at least six months after tests revealed evidence of salmonella bacteria.

The company only stopped shipping after the FDA issued a nationwide pistachio recall in late March 2009, and no efforts were made to address the pistachio problems after they first learned of the possible contamination in October 2008.

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More than 77 products sold under 21 brand names have been recalled this year because they contained nuts manufactured by Setton Pistachio, and the pistachios could lead to food poisoning illness.

The FDA warned consumers to stop eating any products that contain pistachio because of the large number of products that could contain the tainted nuts. Products sold under brand names like Frito-Lay, Fisher, Planters and Kraft, have all been affected by the recall, including standalone pistachio nuts, mixed nuts, trail mixes and other products containing pistachio, like cakes and ice creams.

The FDA’s findings are disturbingly similar to those that led to a criminal investigation after a recent peanut butter salmonella outbreak resulted in hundreds of reported cases of food poisoning and led to the recall of nearly 4,000 products that received peanut ingredients from the Peanut Corporation of America.

Subsequent investigations in that case also revealed evidence that the manufacturer endangered the lives of millions of Americans by continuing to ship large tubs of peanut butter and peanut paste from their Georgia processing plant after their own internal microbiological testing found strains of salmonella in their peanut products. They conducted “lab shopping” to obtain subsequent negative tests that would allow them to ship the peanuts, even though no changes were made to the products or manufacturing process.

At least nine deaths were reported in association with the peanut recall issued by Peanut Corp. However, no confirmed cases of food poisoning have been linked to the pistachio recall.

Salmonella, also known as salmonellosis, is one of the most common causes of food poisoning in the United States, producing symptoms like high fever, persistent diarrhea, dehydration, vomiting, severe abdominal cramps and pain. The first symptoms usually begin to surface between 12 hours and 3 days after consuming the salmonella infected food.

For most healthy adults, salmonella symptoms pass within a few days to a week. However, in some cases severe illness can persist for longer and lead to more serious health problems. Those who are most susceptible to serious injury include the elderly, infants and those with chronic conditions, such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes or weak immune systems.

The FDA has established a website with updated information about the products involved in the recall at http://www.fda.gov/pistachios/.

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