California-based Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella Inc. and its parent
company, Setton International Foods Inc., Commack, N.Y., have gone on the offensive
after the Food and Drug Administration alleged the company’s Terra Bella
plant continued shipping nuts after tests indicated the presence of
“Our company never
knowingly shipped pistachios potentially contaminated with salmonella,” said
Mia Cohen, the parent company’s chief operating officer, in a written
statement. “All pistachios which tested positive were either reconditioned
or held in quarantine and never hit the marketplace.”
re-roasting of the pistachios, a common industry practice designed to kill
any pathogens that may be present. In addition to the shipping claim, the
FDA inspection report released May 22 charged that Setton Pistachio lacked
adequate controls to ensure that the roasting step was effective against
The company adamantly
disagrees with portions of the FDA report, Cohen said in the statement, and
has responded accordingly.
Setton Pistachio hired
third-party testing lab DFA of California, Sacramento, last October to
review the company’s operations, Cohen said in the statement.
“They conducted hundreds
of tests from October to February and could find no evidence of salmonella
in our facility,” she said. “There was never a suggestion from DFA not to
Kraft Foods Inc.,
Northfield, Ill., alerted the FDA March 24 after testing of pistachios from
Setton returned a presumptive positive for the presence of salmonella. The
federal agency then issued an alert March 30 urging consumers not to eat
pistachios or food products containing the nuts, unless they could
determine the food items did not contain pistachios from Setton Pistachio
of Terra Bella.
The company subsequently
voluntarily recalled 2 million pounds of pistachios.