Pistachio recall spreads to Australia

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 20th April 2009

A pistachio recall in America last month has been responsible for the recall of up to 14 products in Australia and posed questions about the mass production of food.

The food regulatory body in the US, FDA, acted swiftly to withdraw over 500 products linked to the company Setton – after traces of salmonella were found.

The FDA is still unaware if the pistachios have actually caused any illnesses, but are unwilling to take any chances given recent events. In the past 12 months they have overseen a peanut butter recall that is thought to have caused around 700 illnesses as well as nine deaths, and another salmonella scare that was first linked to tomatoes before jalapeno peppers were discovered as the culprit in over 1400 illnesses. There has also been the tragic melamine scandal in China that caused around 300,000 infant illnesses and six deaths.

And, given the globalisation of the food industry, the recall has not surprisingly found its way to Australia, with Nocelle Foods recalling pistachio products and then Nut Producers Australia recalling products it sourced from Nocelle.

“Around 12 to 14 products have been recalled within Australia, they all contain pistachios,” Lydia Buchtmann, from Food Standards Australia, told ABC radio. “This action was taken more than a week ago and we’re pretty confident that these products are now off the shelves.”

“There’s 50 to 60 recalls every year in Australia and of course most of them are precautionary like this one where there’s been no case of illness, but of course the company doesn’t want to take a risk. So we have a very good recall situation here in Australia,” Ms Buchtmann advised.

Chef and organic food advocate, Jared Ingersoll from Sydney’s Danks Street Depot, suggested the case highlighted concerns with the mass production of food.”We have a local pistachio nut industry so why do we need to import it? And a lot of time it just comes down to cost,” he said. “I think that a lot of people, especially with this current economic climate, there’s a whole sort of thing about buying Australian made and I think we need to apply that same sort of thinking to our food. We need to look after our local industries.”

“Food is a very complex thing to educate people about. And one of the reasons why I stand firmly behind my beliefs in supporting local markets and buying local food is because you know where it’s coming from,” Mr Ingersoll added. “When I buy food for the restaurant I know most of the time, not all of the time but most of the time I know where the food comes from, I know the farmer’s name, I know what feed they’re feeding the animals or the chickens and I know how the eggs are being made.””But when you’re buying a lot of value added products that are using imported goods from different places around the world, you don’t have that same sort of knowledge and it’s very, very hard for the consumer to sort of educate themselves about it,” he concluded.