Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Stay Away From Pistachios…But Don’t Ditch Them?

This new warning from the FDA about salmonella in pistachios is kind of annoying. We’re being told to KEEP the pistachios, just not to eat them. Does that mean we should seal them in a metal box or some other impervious container to make sure they don’t contaminate anything else?

After reading at least a dozen reports about this latest advisory, I finally discovered the reason we are supposed to hold on to them. It’s so that these pistachios can be turned in, if need be, to be tested in order to establish a definitive link between them and the salmonella outbreaks.

The producer, Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella Inc., is located in Tulare County in central California and the recall, so far, affects ONE MILLION POUNDS of pistachios. As of this moment, there is no mention of the recall on their website.

The pistachios may have been contaminated AFTER roasting. Roasting is supposed to kill the bacteria in nuts. But problems can occur if the roasting is not done correctly or if roasted nuts are re-contaminated. That can happen if mice, rats or birds get into the facility. Yikes!

The FDA was first notified on March 24 that salmonella had been found
in the Nantucket Trail Mix made by the Back To Nature Foods Company, owned by Kraft Foods. The company’s alert, however, says consumers should discard the product, which, I guess, is contrary to the FDA’s suggestion.

Finding out exactly which products are affected isn’t that easy either. This was what I came up with and these are just what's been recalled, not necessarily what has been proven to carry salmonella:
Kraft’s Nantucket Back to Nature Trail Mix
Kroger’s Private Selection shelled pistachios
Simbree Almond Pistachio Energy Bites
These products from The Georgia Nut company

More search results about recalled products are found here.

And what about all those pistachios sold in huge bins? I personally wouldn’t touch those with a ten foot pole, even before this, but I have no idea if those are affected. (Whether true or not, I don’t love open bins…of anything.) I suppose the FDA had to go with what little bit of information they had, but it doesn’t make it any easier to know what we should be avoiding.

I guess my Ras Malai will have to go pistachio-less, for the moment.


Emily said...

Oh no! Not my beloved pistachio!

I've never purchased anything from an open bin before.. I don't think, anyway. I can picture mice getting in there.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Trust the FDA to continue to ruin my fun.

Sue said...

Well, Em, after you told us what's in the ice bin in your restaurant, I can imagine you wouldn't go near one.

I know!!! What's next? Absolut Citron?

DebCarol said...

Jeez....I'm glad this happened now and not this past Christmas. It wouldn't be Christmas without my Pistachio-Cherry Cookies! And exactly WHAT was in the ice bin????

Sue said...

How did everyone feel after they ate those cookies?

What was in the ice bin? Oh nothing, just bits of food, that's all!

Tom said...

The story in the Washington Post today said that Setton ran raw and roasted pistachios through the same machinery, and that since salmonella could live on raw nuts, the roasted nuts could have been contaminated that way. (Setton re-roasted the pistachios because that's the "accepted" way to "recondition" them before sale, something FDA will clearly have to address.)

The most lovely thing about it is that the company had tested roasted pistachios and they came up positive for salmonella, but the company wasn't required to report the testing data. Georgia Nut, a Setton customer, tested its own products that contained Setton pistachios, and reported the problem.

Sue said...

Interesting. I thought that Kraft had gotten the ball rolling reporting on salmonella in their trail mix.

If THAT'S true that Setton Farms found it and did nothing, that's a complete outrage, especially when it follows so soon after the peanut situation.

Muneeba said...

I JUST bought pistachios ... and they don't come cheap! Damn that FDA!!!

Anonymous said...

Sunkist brand pistachios are OK. they come from a different farm...

Sue said...

I guess we should be grateful that the FDA notified the public. It's amazing that ANYTHING is safe to eat anymore.

Thanks for the info. I have a feeling no one is going to be buying ANY pistachios for a while.

Laurie said...

I'm really having a hard time with this one! I was just about to submit a recipe in a contest that utilizes pistachio as the main ingredient. I can't live without my pistachio's! :)

Sue said...

Hi Laurie,
What a shame! Is it a pistachio contest or are you just using pistachios? Could you substitute maybe macadamia nuts or cashews?