Setton Pistachio Suffered from Many Food Safety Issues

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Date Published: Tuesday, May 26th, 2009


Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella, California, was rife with inspections problems, reported McClatchy Newspapers. The paper said federal food inspectors found a variety of problems at Setton Pistachio, which was linked to one of this year’s Salmonella outbreaks.

Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella is the second-largest supplier of pistachios in the country and sells its nuts to Kraft Foods Inc. and 35 other wholesalers nationwide, making it difficult to determine exactly how may products were affected in the Salmonella Montevideo outbreak. The Montevidio strain is the same strain Kraft Foods found in products supplied by Setton, according to an earlier Wall Street Journal. In late March, Setton recalled certain lots of its pistachios after Kraft Foods identified four Salmonella strains, including the Montevideo isolates, in its pistachios, said CIDRAP. The recall was expanded after federal regulators found Salmonella at Setton’s California facility, resulting in many hundreds of product recalls initiated by companies supplied with Setton Farms’ pistachios.

It seems, said McClatchy Newspapers, citing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), that although Setton Pistachio knew of Salmonella in its roasted pistachios as far back as last October, it did not change processing procedures until March. As a matter-of-fact, in at least one situation, Setton simply re-roasted Salmonella-contaminated pistachios, mixing them with other nuts for sale. “Your firm continued to distribute roasted pistachio products after the first private laboratory sample of your roasted pistachio product was reported positive for Salmonella,” FDA inspectors advised the company, quoted McClatchy Newspapers.

Although Setton’s general manager, Lee Cohen, “adamantly disagrees,” the agency’s report discussed 17 separate inspections from the one month between March 26 and April 30 at the Terra Bella plant, said McClatchy Newspapers. Procedural flaws and flaws in the physical plant were discovered, said the paper. The flaws were cited as “inspectional observations” and not “violations” and included a “failure to manufacture, package and store foods under conditions and controls necessary to minimize the potential for growth of microorganisms and contamination,” quoted McClatchy Newspapers. “A rusty hole in the roof above one pistachio roaster, ‘thick layers of dust and debris’ in a packaging room, failure to monitor roasting temperatures, and allowing raw and roasted pistachios to potentially come into contact,” described some of the negligence and filth. “Our investigation is still ongoing,” said FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Kwisnek, adding that, “It’s not complete.”

McClatchy Newspapers reported that the Setton Pistachio plant shut down for a time this past March and recalled over two million pounds of nuts; state and federal inspectors then reported locating Salmonella in “critical areas” at the facility, including “at least eight reported Salmonella-positive test results” at the Terra Bella plant, between October 2008 and March 2009. Inspectors also said that once Setton was advised of the private laboratory test results, there were no “procedures in place” to adequately respond, reported McClatchy Newspapers.

Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis, and arthritis.




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