The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) are investigating Salmonella contamination in pistachio products sold by Setton Pistachio Inc. of Terra Bella, California, and it is likely that this recall will impact many other food-related supply chains.  Similar to what we observed in the recent recall incident of peanut butter and paste,  in which salmonella contamination was traced to a Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) plant in Georgia, pistachios are also ingredients for other food products.  As the PCA incident unfolded, hundreds of products involving multiples of supply chains were impacted by this disruption. But this particular case seems to potentially involve both consumer direct as well as other food-related distribution.

According to the latest FDA advisory, the contamination may involve multiple strains of Salmonella, and it is not yet known whether these strains are linked to any specific outbreaks of salmonella sickness.  The FDA has warned all consumers to avoid eating pistachio products and to hold on to those products for potential testing.  The FDA first learned of the problem on March 24 when it was informed by Kraft Foods that its Back to Nature Trail Mix was found to be contaminated with salmonella, and the source was suspected to be pistachios from supplier Setton. Both Kraft and the Georgia Nut Company have taken proactive measures to recall their Back to Nature and Nantucket Blend trail mix products.

According to an AP news report, as well as reporting on cable news station MSNBC, the recalled pistachios represent a small fraction of the 60 million pounds that the Setton plant can produce each year.  Setton shipped 2000 pound bags of these nuts to 36 wholesalers, and it could take weeks to figure out how much within these shipments could be impacted.  “The firm is already turning around trucks in transit to bring those back to the facility,” stated an FDA official.

While the food industry continues to call for major joint government and industry initiatives in food safety, this latest incident is yet another reinforcement that a quality standard among food production facilities has deteriorated to unacceptable levels.

Similar to the advice I shared during the peanut butter contamination incident in early January, crisis what-if, and business continuity planning continue to be important tenets of an effective supply chain risk management plan.  Other consumer product companies utilizing pistachio products should focus upstream and act proactively.  Consumers and customers should be the first priority.

Supply Chain Matters will continue to monitor this latest major incident of product contamination involving food-related supply chains.

 Bob Ferrari