Is that a bearded dragon in your pocket or are you just happy to see me: walnut/Salmonella edition

Inspectors and investigators have the best stories and FDA’s move over the past few years to post warning letters is a goldmine for food safety stories. Like the one Gregory Banes of Gold State Nut LLC received earlier this month. According to the letter, Banes was tugging the skin of a bearded dragon in his office during an FDA visit. And then he went to touch some nuts.DnYEv

Three of 100 environmental swabs we collected from your facility yielded Salmonella. One of the swabs was taken from a cross-beam directly above the belt where all shelled walnuts exit the shell cracker. Our investigators observed debris falling from this cross-beam directly onto the belt below where walnuts exit the cracker during operation. All cracked walnuts pass under this cross-beam.

Two swabs collected from the inside of the reptile enclosure in your office yielded Salmonella. During an interview in your office located within the packing facility, our investigators observed you holding a bearded dragon reptile and peeling off its skin with your bare hands. Following this interview, you were seen touching shelled walnut meats with your bare hands, without first washing your hands. Reptiles are known reservoirs for Salmonella.

Beyond the dragon handling, the company had lots of risk issues including a lack of hand washing tools, and cross-contamination potential.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.