By: Candess Zona-Mendola

The month of March was not kind to nut manufacturers. What started as a one-brand specific voluntary recall due to concerns over potential Salmonella Montevideo contamination, has exploded into a multi-state, multi-brand recall of pistachio nuts. This explosion has led the CDC to join forces with public health officials and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate the origins and cause of the contamination.[1]

As of March 15, 2016, 11 people in 9 states[2] have been infected with Salmonella Montevideo due to consumption of contaminated pistachios.[3] Two ill people have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.[4]

A Brief History of the Voluntary Recalls

  • February 19, 2016: Country Life Natural Foods of Pullman, MI recalled its shelled raw pistachios as sold in 2 pound bags and 30 pound boxes.[5] Lot numbers can be found here.
  • March 9, 2016: Wonderful Pistachios voluntarily recalls a limited number of flavors and sizes of in-shell and shelled pistachios – including Wonderful, Paramount Farms and Trader Joe’s brands.[6] Lot numbers can be found here.
  • March 10, 2016, Kanan Enterprises issued a voluntary recall for in shell pistachios under its Favorites Natural Pistachios brand.[7] Lot numbers can be found here.
  • March 10, 2016: Texas Star Nut & Food Co. recalls its Nature’s Eats branded pistachios that were sold primarily in Texas and Louisiana. Lot numbers can be found here.
  • March 15, 2016: Texas Star Nut & Food Co. expanded its recall of its Nature’s Eats pistachios. Fresh Choice and Southern Grove were also added to the recall list. Lot numbers can be found here.

 

Six brands of Pistachios in all were included in the outbreak[8].

What is being done to identify a potential outbreak?

The CDC is utilizing state-of-the-art scientific techniques, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and whole genome sequencing (WGS), in an effort to map the DNA fingerprinting of the bacteria’s genome. Samples have been provided by those stricken with the illness. Their public system, PulseNet, collects the samples, catalogues the found sequences, and provides a system that other states can use to link illnesses to those found by the CDC.[9] If links exist, the CDC may issue an outbreak notification. No such announcement has been made at this time.

The FDA purported that the recall was a result of a routine sampling of products. Furthermore, no illnesses have been reported in relation to this product at this time. However, one such Colorado family has already come forward – claiming that four of their members were afflicted with salmonella poisoning after sharing a bag of Wonderful Pistachios. The CDC has not linked their poisoning to the outbreak, but the family claims the bag of Wonderful Pistachios was included in the recall lots[10]. The Colorado family further claimed to have not been aware of the recall.

What is Salmonella and what should I look out for?

Salmonella is a bacteria that could cause severe, and at times fatal, illness – especially for the elderly, young children, and those with compromised immune systems. Symptoms can range from fever and diarrhea to nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In some, albeit rare, circumstances, the bacteria can crossover from the intestinal tract into the bloodstream and cause additional severe infections. If you have been infected, symptoms will typically show from six to 72 hours and last approximately a week. Even those who have regained their health, it may take several months for their bowel habits to return to normal.

For those with severe cases, the patient may need to be hospitalized. It is crucial that immediate medical treatment be sought, as severe Salmonella poisoning could lead to death without prompt antibiotic treatment and fluids. It is important to note that children, people with compromised immune systems, and the elderly are those that are most likely to become ill.

There are also several potential long term consequences of Salmonella poisoning. Some may become afflicted with arthritis. This could last for months to years, and can happen despite early intervention by healthcare professionals.

What should I do as the consumer?

So, you have identified that you have either purchased these products and have maybe ingested them. You are probably asking yourself, what should I do now? It is crucial to act right away to avoid undue illness. As pistachios are a long-shelf life item, it is easy to store them in long-term food storage. The first and foremost thing to do is get rid of them! Even if they “look fine” or “don’t smell,” they could still make you sick.

If you have suffered food poisoning by ingesting contaminated pistachios, you are encouraged to seek medical attention right away – regardless of the perceived severity of symptoms.

We have gathered are some tips to assist you:

  • Check your product! If you have purchased pistachios recently, check your product lot numbers with the brands noted above.
  • If you found you have a product that matches any of the above, do not eat it! The CDC has adequately notified retailers to immediately halt the purchase of these pistachios.
  • If you have not yet ingested the product, throw it away or return it to the authorized retailer who sold it to you.
  • If you have become ill by ingesting pistachios, seek immediate medical attention.
  • If you have become ill by ingesting pistachios, file a report or a complaint with your local health department.
  • If you have become severely ill by ingesting a matched product, and still have the product, immediately place it into a plastic bag and store it away from children and pets.

 

References

[1] Initial Announcement. (2016, March 9). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/montevideo-03-16/index.html

[2] The 9 states include: Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Virginia, and Washington.

[3] People infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Montevideo, by state of residence, as of March 7, 2016 (n=11). (2016, March 10). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/montevideo-03-16/map.html

[4] Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Montevideo Infections Linked to Wonderful Pistachios. (2016, March 10). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/montevideo-03-16/index.html

[5] Country Life Natural Foods Recalls Raw Pistachios Because of Possible Health Risk. (2016, February 19). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm487019.htm

[6] Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Montevideo Infections Linked to Wonderful Pistachios. (2016, March 10). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/montevideo-03-16/index.html

[7] Kanan Enterprises Conducts Nationwide Voluntary Recall of Natural in Shell Pistachios. (2016, March 10). Retrieved March 16, 2016, from http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm490285.htm

[8] http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm490751.htm

[9] Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Montevideo Infections Linked to Wonderful Pistachios. (2016, March 10). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/montevideo-03-16/index.html

[10] http://kdvr.com/2016/03/27/colorado-family-gets-salmonella-linked-to-recalled-pistachios/