U.S. hazelnut industry embraces food safety

I had chopped hazelnuts on my bagged salad of romaine lettuce left over from a TV interview for lunch today (right, not exactly as shown). It was yummy, but after reading Oregon’s Capital Press, I wondered, why do all these food groups wait until a problem is discovered to become born-again about food safety?

Last September, three months before the Food and Drug Administration found salmonella in an Oregon hazelnut processing plant, the hazelnut industry met to address food safety.

Why wasn’t it 10 years ago?

Polly Owen, manager of the Hazelnut Industry Office, said the discovery of salmonella in December at Willamette Shelling in Newberg, Ore., was a wake-up call.

In a recent report to the Oregon Board of Agriculture, Owen said the industry is taking a two-pronged approach to ensuring hazelnuts are safe.

The first involves developing good handling and management practices.

The second involves educating growers and processors on safety measures.

Who knows if any of this will be effective without follow-up, verification, and food safety assistance for growers and processors.

Nuts to you

Salmonella in nuts strikes again. Nuts and seeds seem to be prone to Salmonella contamination. This year alone peanuts, pistchios, sesame and sunflower seeds, pecans and now hazelnuts from two Oregon companies have been recalled due to Salmonella contamination.

Kunze Farms of Dayton, OR is recalling 32,950 lbs. of hazelnut kernels distributed to several different processors and wholesaler’s in the following areas:  

Dayton, OR; , Milton-Freewater, OR; Hauppauge, NY; Mesa, AZ; Cottonwood, AZ; Seattle, WA; Ogden, UT;  San Antonio, TX.; and Parker, CO. The product was packed in 25 lb cartons, under our product brand name of Kunze Farms, ‘Select Shelled Hazelnuts’ Dayton, Oregon with the code numbers 289091A or 299091A.

Willamette Filbert Growers of Newberg, OR is recalling 29,861 lbs of Shelled Hazelnuts and Shelled Organic Hazelnuts.

After product sampling, Salmonella was found on one production lot at the facility where Willamette Filbert Grower’s hazelnuts were shelled. To ensure consumer safety, Willamette Filbert Growers has decided to recall all shelled hazelnuts and shelled organic hazelnuts processed from October 12th 2009 through November 25th 2009. Shelled Hazelnuts and Shelled Organic Hazelnuts were distributed in Oregon and California through wholesale distributors and direct delivery. Unshelled hazelnuts are not subject to this recall. All products subject to recall were packed in 25 lbs. corrugated boxes bearing Willamette Filbert Growers or Meridian Organic Hazelnuts labeled with lot code numbers 289091A and 311091A.

Two Salmonella outbreaks linked to peanut butter, and an additional two Salmonella outbreaks linked to almonds earlier in the decade demonstrate how resilient Salmonella can be on and in dried nut products. At IAFP in August 2005, I co-moderated a symposium at which Robert Tauxe of the CDC said sesame seeds and Salmonella was the next big thing on the international food safety horizon.  His prediction is still looking pretty good.