Salmonella outbreak sickens 11 with link to pistachios

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Wonderful Pistachios issued a recall in relation to the investigation
Wonderful Pistachios issued a recall in relation to the investigation

Related tags Foodborne illness

Wonderful Pistachios has been linked to a multistate outbreak in the US of Salmonella Montevideo that has sickened 11 people.

The firm has recalled different flavors and sizes of in-shell and shelled pistachios in the US and Canada due to the pathogen.

Products were distributed through several retailers nationwide and can be identified by a 13-digit lot code number found on the lower back or bottom panel of the package (see list here​).

They were sold under the brand names Wonderful, Paramount Farms, and Trader Joe's.

Products may have been sold in bulk or in smaller packages with or without a label and may not bear the same names that can be found here​, said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Transilvania Trading is recalling Trader Joe's brand pistachios due to possible Salmonella contamination.

There have been no confirmed illnesses in Canada with the products.

Outbreak strain isolated

Laboratory testing has isolated the outbreak strain of Salmonella Montevideo from samples of raw pistachios from Paramount Farms, where Wonderful pistachios are grown.

Whole Genome Sequencing showed that isolates from raw pistachios supplied by Paramount Farms are closely related genetically to isolates from ill people, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Illness dates range from December 12, 2015 to February 9, 2016 and ill people range in age from nine years to 69.

Among nine ill people with available information, two reported being hospitalized but no deaths have been reported.

Of the nine ill people interviewed, eight (89%) reported eating pistachios in the week before illness started. This is higher than results from a survey of healthy people in which 12% ate pistachios in the week before they were interviewed.

When asked about the brand eaten, five (63%) of eight ill people identified Wonderful brand pistachios.

Arizona and Washington have reported two illnesses each; Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and Virginia all have one each.

Increased sampling frequency

Wonderful Pistachios said it takes food safety matters ‘very seriously’ and is working closely with health officials to identify the source of the problem. 

“In an effort to further enhance our food safety program and ensure the health and well-being of our consumers, we have, effective immediately, proactively increased our sampling frequencies and lot size testing,”​ it added.

“Wonderful Pistachios has been growing, harvesting and processing pistachios for 30 years, and this is the first-ever recall associated with this product…. 

“To-date, we have invested more than $50m in our food safety programs, enhanced facility infrastructure, modernized sanitation practices, increased lab testing and validated roasters to minimize the risk of pathogens.”

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