UPDATE: F.D.A. advises consumers to avoid pistachio nuts

by Keith Nunes
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WASHINGTON — In a news conference Monday evening, officials with the Food and Drug Administration advised consumers to avoid eating pistachio nuts for the time being. Officials made the comments after a California-based pistachio grower and seller recalled its products due to Salmonella contamination.

Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella, Inc. has initiated a nationwide recall of specific lots of bulk, roasted and shelled pistachios sold to wholesale customers due to concerns about Salmonella contamination. In addition, the company is recalling Setton Farms brand roasted, salted and shelled pistachios in 9-oz packages with a best before date between Jan. 6, 2010- and Jan. 19, 2010. The products were distributed in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky, according to the company.

The Food and Drug Administration said the product contamination involves several strains of Salmonella. To date, several illnesses have been reported that the agency said may be associated with pistachio consumption. It is not yet known whether any of the Salmonella strains found in the pistachio products are linked to a specific foodborne illness outbreak. The F.D.A. is conducting genetic testing of the samples.

The F.D.A. learned of the problem on March 24 when it was informed by Kraft Foods Inc. that its Back to Nature brand of trail mix was found to be contaminated with Salmonella. Kraft identified the source of the contamination to be pistachios from Setton and initiated a recall of its products.

The products recalled by Kraft Foods include Back to Nature Nantucket Blend trail mix in 10-oz and 28-oz packages. Other companies that have initiated recalls due to the warning include Kroger Co., which announced it is recalling its Private Selection brand shelled pistachio nuts.

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