Setton Pistachio disputes salmonella allegations

Published on 05/29/2009 06:55am By Don Schrack

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Terra Bella, 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 salmonella.

“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.”

Reconditioning is 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 salmonella.

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 ship.”

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.


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