The food we eatA wave of food recalls fuels drive for food safety reform

Published 3 April 2009

The FDA told consumers Monday to stop eating anything containing pistachios; the FDA was tipped off by Kraft Foods on 24 March, after the company found salmonella in routine testing and recalled some trail mix


April 3, 2009


If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Now pistachios are being recalled on suspicion of contaminated with salmonella. This recall comes just weeks after thousands of products containing peanuts were voluntarily recalled in a salmonella outbreak that sickened about 700 people, and follows highly publicized food-borne disease outbreaks connected to peppers and spinach.

As consumers, we all have that reaction, ‘Here we go again,’ ” said Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America’s Health, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that works to reform the food safety system.

Los Angeles Times’s Mary MacVean writes that the string of alerts keeps food safety on the minds of Americans and could lead to legislative changes in California and the rest of the country.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told consumers Monday to stop eating anything containing pistachios — an effort to keep people from getting sick while investigators looked for the source and the extent of the problem.

The government was tipped off by Kraft Foods on 24 March, after it found salmonella in routine testing and recalled some trail mix. The pistachio recall “is the latest reminder of how vulnerable our food safety system is,” Levi said. “It is encouraging that this response was so quick, but we need to move to a system that focuses on prevention through the entire food production process.”

Like the peanut alert, the recall of potentially contaminated foods with pistachios may continue for weeks, in part because both products are used as ingredients in a variety of foods. As of Thursday afternoon, several dozen products were on the FDA’s recall list. The two recalls, however, are not related, federal officials said, and there are marked differences between them.

In January, after several reports of illnesses, the FDA traced the source of the salmonella outbreak to a Peanut Corp. of America plant in Georgia. Authorities said nine deaths could be linked to the outbreak. The FDA accused the company of knowingly shipping products after tests detected salmonella.

The pistachio recall, by Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella, was not triggered by any illness. On Thursday, the FDA said several illnesses had been reported that could be linked to pistachios. Once Kraft learned of the positive salmonella test by a company in its supply chain, it began an investigation, sending auditors to Setton, said Laurie Guzzinati, a spokeswoman for Kraft Foods. The auditor “observed raw and roasted pistachios not properly segregated,” she said.

Setton, the