Pistachio recall: Recent updates

by Terry B on April 8, 2009

The pistachio recall in the United States continues to evolve, but it turns out that not all products are affected. Here is recent information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other sources.

First things first. If you have pistachios or foods that contain pistachios in your house, do not eat them without contacting the retailer where you bought them to see if they are part of the recall or not. But as you read below, you’ll see that not all pistachio products are part of the recall—there are plenty of sources of these delicious nuts that are safe to eat.

Okay, let’s start with the current official word from the FDA’s website: “The FDA and the California Department of Public Health continue to investigate Salmonella contamination in pistachios and pistachio products. Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella Inc., Terra Bella, Calif., is voluntarily expanding its recall of roasted pistachios to include all lots of roasted in-shell pistachios and roasted shelled pistachios that were produced from nuts harvested in 2008. The firm is also recalling those raw shelled pistachios from the 2008 crop that are not subsequently roasted prior to retail sale. The pistachios may be contaminated with Salmonella.”

Salmonella is nothing to mess around with. It can cause a moderate illness with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and headaches, and may even come back a few weeks later as arthritis. In young children, frail or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems, it can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections.

That said, while the FDA initially warned consumers to not eat any pistachio products, they’ve now modified this warning on their site: “FDA is advising consumers not to eat pistachios or food products containing them [such as pistachio bakery goods and pistachio ice cream] unless they can determine that the products do not contain pistachios from Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella, Inc.

So where do you find non-Setton pistachios? First, a little perspective. While Setton is the second largest producer of pistachios in the United States, the one- to two-million pounds of pistachios affected by the recall represent “less than one percent of the overall pistachio crop harvested in 2008,” according to April Shunn with Paramount Farms, the world’s largest pistachio grower. Paramount’s crop is not part of the recall. In fact, as Ms. Shunn states, “the recent precautionary, voluntary recall of pistachios involves a single supplier, Setton Farms.”

To help consumers find pistachio products not affected by the recall, the CAL-PURE co-op of California pistachio growers and the Western Pistachio Association have created a website listing brands reported as not containing any pistachio products from Setton Pistachio. According to PistachioRecall.org, “The vast majority of pistachio products and foods containing pistachio products do not contain pistachios from Setton.” On the site, you’ll find an alphabetical list of brands they say are not affected by the recall. The FDA’s own recall site includes a link to PistachioRecall.org. And while they offer the caveat that “information on this website has not been verified by the FDA, and the Agency is not responsible for its contents,” Ms. Shunn points out that this is “the first time the FDA has ever linked to a non-governmental website for information on a food recall.”

Here is what a couple of retailers are saying on their websites:

Trader Joe’s states that “All of the bagged pistachio nutmeats and bagged pistachios in shell currently on our store shelves are NOT subject to the recent pistachio recall. However, the recent expansion of the recall does encompass two of our discontinued bagged pistachios:
• Trader Joe’s Chili Lemon Pistachios
• Trader Joe’s Habañero Pistachios

If you have either of these items, please do not eat them. Please return the product (full or empty) to any Trader Joe’s for a full refund.”

At Whole Foods, the story is a little more involved. Recalls of pre-pack and bulk pistachios in their stores vary by region. But their site clearly spells this out. They are making every effort to stay out in front on this latest recall, as are most retailers.

Again, if you currently have any pistachio products at home, do not eat them unless you can clear them with the resources above or by contacting the retailer where you purchased them. But if you’re truly jonesing for some pistachios, sounds like you just might be able to find some.


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura April 8, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Well I must say this is a much more pro-active stance that the FDA is taking now than in the past (administration). And those Trader Joe’s lemon pistachios are wonderful, how delightful that they are not subject to recall!

altadenahiker April 8, 2009 at 3:20 pm

I think the FDA is very careless in their initial research and wording. Now all the people who make their living off pistachio products will see their livlihood severely affected until this latest panic falls off the public radar.

Terry B April 8, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Sorry, Laura, but the lemon pistachios are not only among those affected, they also discontinued them. Fun while they lasted, though.

altadenahiker—It’s really a no-win situation as I see it. Either you’re overly cautious and people’s livelihoods are messed with or you’re not careful enough and everyone freaks out when people get sick.

Carolyn April 8, 2009 at 5:47 pm

Terry, I’m glad you posted this information. I think people died from the ongoing peanut recall. Anyway, I LOVE pistachios best of all nuts (did you know they originally came from Iran)? Someone told me that you can buy “test strips” to apply to food to see if it contains bacteria that can cause illness. I haven’t looked for them and don’t know if they’re based on junk science or some kind of genius litmus paper that can distinguish between benign bacteria and the big bad ugly stuff. Anyway, thanks for the information.

Terry B April 8, 2009 at 6:45 pm

Very funny, Carolyn! I love your scientific skepticism.

Laura April 9, 2009 at 3:19 pm


Mary-Laure April 13, 2009 at 4:44 am

Luckily, where I live in CA, I buy my pistachios from a local farmer, and they’re salmonella-free…

Terry B April 13, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Laura—Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Mary-Laure—We can’t wait for our farmers markets to get back into full swing here in Chicago.

Joseph Matschi July 27, 2009 at 12:33 pm

I am a regular consumer of Hahanero Pistachio’s. I would like to know if the area I live in was affected and when , I reside in Oshkosh, WI 54902.

Thank You

Terry B July 27, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Hi, Joseph. I’m assuming you meant Habanero pistachios. My short answer is this: If you didn’t get sick, you didn’t get bad pistachios. But if you’re still concerned, FDA has established a searchable database on its website that includes brands of recalled pistachios and pistachio products. If you have specific brand names of the pistachios you buy, you can visit the companies’ websites or check out the recall update on the FDA website here to see if they were affected or not.

Henry November 21, 2012 at 1:37 pm

I ate pistachios from Family Dollar and they tasted funny. Expiration date was Feb. 2012. Now I am vomiting and the runs like crazy. I feel horrible.

Terry B November 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Henry, if you’re still feeling sick, call your doctor. Also check the FDA website in the comment above yours.

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