Pistachio Recall Shows FDA Needs to Shift from Voluntary Guidance to Food Safety Mandates for the Nut Industry


Statement of CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal

April 8, 2009

The latest recall of a popular nut—pistachios—is expanding to include all nuts processed by Setton Farms in 2008. This recall, coming on the heels of a peanut recall affecting over 2,000 products, is another blow to farmers, nut processors, and consumer confidence. It proves the Food and Drug Administration urgently needs to institute mandatory process controls for all tree nuts and peanuts. The FDA should immediately require processors to institute process controls that would ensure safe product.


Photo Credit: Jeff Cronin
Following a recall of more than 2,000 peanut-butter
products, Pistachios are the latest victim of salmonella contamination.

FDA is being proactive, initiating the recall and working with Setton Farms to get potentially harmful products off the market even before any illnesses have been reported. But the agency didn't act fast enough to prevent the eight other outbreaks from peanuts or mixed nuts since 2001.

The agency should not go company-by-company when it is clear that process controls are warranted for the nut industry overall. Other nut processors may be making the same mistakes that resulted in the Setton plant and the Peanut Corporation of America shipping millions of pounds of tainted nuts across the country.

FDA officials say they intend to issue "guidance" to the pistachio industry, but this is an inadequate response. Guidance is voluntary; regulations are law. We can’t rely on industry honor systems to protect us. Without mandates and enforcement, Americans' protection from food safety illnesses and future scares is paper thin.

 

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