Bugs and Salmonella in pistachios

Keeping with the small-town southern Ontario theme (that’s still in Canada) Chris Sperduti, 29, from Bolton (not to be confused with Beeton) grabbed a handful of pistachios and was shelling them when he came across something that turned his stomach.

There were bugs nested in two of the shells. He could see holes in the nuts where the bugs had eaten some of his snack.

Karen Martin-Robbins of the Caledon Enterprise writes the Bolton man contacted Walmart in Bolton – not so small anymore if it has a Walmart — where he bought the product — the company gave him his money back and a savings coupon for more pistachios.

They also told him that with agricultural produce, you can expect to get some insects.

He was even more grossed out by that.

“When I’m eating pistachios, I expect to be eating pistachios. Not bugs,” he said.

Then, he went to Costco to buy his pistachios.

He found three more bugs in his first handful.

A quantitative risk assessment of human salmonellosis from consumption of pistachios in the United States

Journal of Food Protection vol. 81 no. 6




We developed a quantitative risk assessment model to assess the risk of human nontyphoidal salmonellosis from consumption of pistachios in the United States and to evaluate the impact of Salmonella treatments (1- to 5-log reductions). The exposure model estimating prevalence and contamination levels of Salmonella at consumption included steps in pistachio processing such as transport from grower to huller, removal of the hull through wet abrasion, separation of pistachio floaters (immature, smaller nuts) and sinkers (mature, larger nuts) in a flotation tank, drying, storage, and partitioning. The risks of illness per serving and per year were evaluated by including a Salmonella dose-response model and U.S. consumption data. The spread of Salmonella through float tank water, delay in drying resulting in growth, increased Salmonella levels through pest infestation during storage (pre- and posttreatment), and a simulation of the 2016 U.S. salmonellosis outbreak linked to consumption of pistachios were the modeled atypical situations.

The baseline model predicted one case of salmonellosis per 2 million servings (95% CI: one case per 5 million to 800,000 servings) for sinker pistachios and one case per 200,000 servings (95% CI: one case per 400,000 to 40,000 servings) for floater pistachios when no Salmonella treatment was applied and pistachios were consumed as a core product (>80% pistachio) uncooked at home. Assuming 90% of the pistachio supply is sinkers and 10% is floaters, the model estimated 419 salmonellosis cases per year (95% CI: 200 to 1,083 cases) when no Salmonella treatment was applied. A mean risk of illness of less than one case per year was estimated when a minimum 4-log reduction treatment was applied to the U.S. pistachio supply, similar to the results of the Salmonella risk assessment for almonds. This analysis revealed that the predicted risk of illness per serving is higher for all atypical situations modeled compared with the baseline, and delay in drying had the greatest impact on consumer risk.

Another Salmonella-in-pistachios recall

Texas Star Nut and Food Co., Inc. voluntarily recalls Nature’s Eats, Natural Pistachio Kernels, 8oz. – cello bag, with the following lot code Nature’s Eats, Natural Pistachio Kernels, 8oz. – cello bagbecause of a possible health risk:

Brand: Nature’s Eats

Product: Natural Pistachios Kernels

Size: 8 oz.

Lot Code: 40262001

Best Buy Date: 1/4/2017

The above product has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella,

This product was distributed to Retail Locations in Texas and Louisiana. The product was sold between 1/22/2016 and 2/3/2016. This notification is intended to inform consumers that may still have any of the above listed product in their possession.

The recall was as a result of a routine, random sampling program conducted by an FDA third party contracted lab which revealed that the Nature’s Eats Natural Pistachio Kernels product contained Salmonella.

11 sick: Not-so Wonderful Pistachios linked to Salmonella outbreak

An intrepid barblog.com reader e-mailed me two days ago to say she had been shopping at Trader Joe’s and they were pulling pistachios off the shelves. She surmised they were either slow on a previous Salmonella-in-pistachios, or there was a new outbreak.

lot-code-imageIt was the later.

Trader Joes publicly announced the recall the next day and last night, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control linked the Trader Joe’s pistachios to a national outbreak of Salmonella Montevideo that has so far sickened at least 11 people in nine states.

Local, state and federal health officials are investigating the outbreak. Meanwhile, California-based Wonderful Pistachios has voluntarily recalled a limited number of flavors and sizes of its product, the CDC statement said.

The pistachios were sold nationwide and in Canada under the brand names Wonderful, Paramount Farms and Trader Joe’s.

The recalled products can be identified by their lot number, which can be found at the bottom of packaging. The CDC has a guide on which pistachios were recalled and how to tell on its website. The Food and Drug Administration has a list of the (many) recalled products.


Pistachios following the way of the almond industry: developing validated pasteurization interventions

Nuts and other low moisture foods can be a source of Salmonella. That’s not new. But many folks in the low-moisture foods industries are now conducting risk assessments and validating interventions (like pasteurization) to keep the Salmonella out of the hands of bar patrons everywhere.

The almond industry led the way about a decade ago. The peanut industry, in the wake of two outbreaks followed. According to Growing Produce, the pistachio industry is working with friend of barfblog (and known to her close friends as at the almond queen) Linda Harris and Michigan State’s Bradley Marks on some validation work.pistachios

“At this point in our world, Salmonella is a hazard that is reasonably likely to possibly occur in low-moisture products like nuts. It’s happened before, so we have to assume it’s possible it could happen again,” Marks says. “That being the case, the proposed rules of FSMA require that the processor have a validated process that they can document that they’ve shown achieves the food safety objective.”

Marks and his colleagues are currently working on lab-scale research to evaluate the effects of the pasteurization process and product conditions on the resistance of Salmonella to heating. “We’re doing some mathematical modeling so we can understand the rate of Salmonella activation as a function of temperature, time, and conditions of the product or the process itself,” Marks says.

The second part of the project will involve similar work on a pilot scale. “We have a system where we can inoculate pistachios with Salmonella and subject them to a process like a flatbed roaster,” Marks says. “So we are looking at validating that our prediction of the inactivation of Salmonella is correct, and that a non-pathogenic surrogate (Enterococcus faecium) also is reliable as a means to validate the process.”

Marks is working closely with Linda Harris, co-principal investigator for the Western Center for Food Safety at the University of California, Davis, to develop guidelines and on-site workshop training for pistachio processors. The guidelines and training will focus on what needs to be measured and documented to meet the FSMA requirements.