Pistachios and Salmonella: Setton Farms Voluntarily Recall

The second-largest pistachio processor in the US has voluntarily recalled all of its pistachio products because of “concerns” about salmonella contamination, the New York Times reports.

Photo by Ayelie

Photo by Ayelie

From the sounds of the article, Setton Farms decided to make the recall after one of their wholesale customers, Kraft Foods, did some routine tests and came up with disturbing findings, at which point Kraft promptly narced and told the FDA (thankfully).

So far, there’s no talk about leaky industrial roofing dripping wet bird crap onto the processing line (as was what happened with those peanuts, EW). Right now the article just says:

Kraft Foods said its inspectors visited the California plant where the pistachios were processed, and found that the plant was not keeping its roasted pistachios separate from the incoming flow of raw nuts. Like other nuts, raw pistachios can carry pathogens that are killed in the roasting process.

Pathogens = organic matter that may contain salmonella? ie dirt, crap, roaches, mold, roach crap?? I have no idea – anyone care to enlighten us? [UPDATE: Reader Eric has commented on a little more of the pistachio cleaning process. Who knew that the rawness of nuts are treated with sensitivity, almost like meat?] What is also disappointing is that the article makes it sound like Kraft had to whistle blow this issue before the supplier did.

By the way, Setton Farms does have a process map about how its pistachios make it from the farmers to a packaged product. What’s odd is the amount of times magnets are passed over the nuts to remove any metal objects. Um, when are metal objects potentially getting into the pistachios? Is it workers’ jewelry or shards? Yikes! [UPDATE: Reader Eric also points out that employees are not allowed to wear jewelry other than a wedding band and that the metal detectors are used to find trace slivers of metal; sounds like a preventative measure instead of sorting out things that fall in there unavoidably?]

As with other industrial food processing, the more I know about how something got to me, the less I want to eat the stuff.

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7 Responses to Pistachios and Salmonella: Setton Farms Voluntarily Recall

  1. eric says:

    please inform yourself if you plan to use this article other than for gossip. The pistachios may have been in contact with raw pistachios…not bird poop or jewelry or God knows whatever else your mind has come up with..(you have a very interesting imagination..you should get that checked). This company along with others have strict quality control standards. But perfection cannot be achieved in the real world and unfortunately a mistake was made (first of this kind in over 20 years) . I hope you can understand that in your world of lolly pops and rainbows

  2. GrubGirl says:

    We’d love to be better informed! Wanna help? Educate those of us that just eat the finished product, or let us know where to go for unbiased information.

    For example, why do the nuts have to go through five (not two, not three, but five) passes through a metal detector to make sure no metal debris is in the product? Where does that come from. Is that standard with all food processing? How does touching a roasted pistachio with a raw pistachio contaminate it? Is “contamination” an FDA definition? How did the Kraft representative happen to see this but FDA inspectors did not?

    These are questions from the laypeople (informally polled).

    Any insights that anyone can share, that knows the business, are of course welcome.

  3. eric says:

    Id be glad to assist. the metal detecting is due to how the pistachios are moved around..from the beginning of the process pistachios are taken through a variety of phases as indicated on process map. This is only a safety measure to guarantee nothing is left that shouldnt be there. Where they come from when they are harvested they can be full of debris. having metal detectors in so many parts of the process is really to make sure if anything escapes one metal detector the others will pick them up. these detectors are very sensitive…down to a tiny speck so dont get the idea that they are pulling some gold chain, that some worker dropped, out of the pistachios…and jewelry cannot be worn except for wedding rings as is the case in many processing plants(for safety and possible contamination). as for the recall. raw pistachio is exactly that.RAW.raw pistachios are sold to others who process it themselves. Roasted pistachios are roasted at a high temperature killing off anything harmful. If a raw pistachio comes in contact with roasted it now has the potential to spread whatever may be on a raw pistachios..Often times inspectors are sent from those who buy from a company to ensure that there are no unsanitary conditions to prevent things like what happened in the case of the peanuts.
    And I apologize for the rudeness, I just want a fair case made to the company who is the second largest producer processor in the nation (and for a reason)

  4. eric says:

    and one more thing…the pistachios are washed eliminating that “dirt, crap, roaches, mold, roach crap” as stated in the processing map you were so good as to supply to your readers.

  5. Emeril says:


  6. GrubGirl says:

    Thanks @Eric for the information. Sounds like the pistachio plant here is a bit more on top of the peanut plant that got into trouble earlier this year. Any insights you can share with that? A completely different beast when it comes to harvesting and processing? Or a similar process with a less careful supplier?

    Do you work at Setton or did you?

    And yes, @Emeril, bam indeed. I’ll make a few updates to the post based on the great discussion here.

  7. eric says:

    I was glad to help. I am familiar with the process from harvesting to loading up containers to ship out…beyond that I cant say…

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