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FDA And Setton Pistachio Work The Information Game

FDA Leaks New Info About Test Results

The Associated Press is reporting that federal officials confirmed they have test results confirming the existence of salmonella in “critical places” in Setton Pistachio’s California plant:

Federal officials confirmed Monday they found traces of salmonella in a central California pistachio processing plant that sparked a nationwide recall of the nut.

The Food and Drug Administration said state and federal inspectors discovered the bacteria in “critical areas” at Setton Farms of Terra Bella, Inc., the second-largest pistachio processor in the nation.

FDA officials also said they found places at the facility where raw and roasted nuts could have become cross-contaminated with salmonella.

Setton Pistachio, which sells its nuts to Kraft Foods Inc. and 35 other wholesalers across the country, temporarily shut down after voluntarily recalling more than 2 million pounds of nuts last week.

The company expanded its recall on Monday to include all raw and roasted pistachios from its 2008 crop. A company spokeswoman did not immediately return messages seeking further details.

The AP story is slightly different than what Setton wrote in its own press release which came out shortly after the AP story. It says, “Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella’s raw in-shell pistachio shipments are NOT affected by this recall expansion.” This seems to imply that it is not recalling all raw and roasted pistachios from its 2008 crop.

If true, this report seems to represent a new approach FDA is pursuing with this food safety investigation. In the past, FDA has generally released information in frequent conference calls and then followed up with announcements on its Website.

This time around they seem to be leaking information anonymously to favored reporters.

In any case this would indicate that the salmonella contamination did not originate at Georgia Nut Company where the salmonella was first detected. Still an open question — how did it get to the plant? Was this a contamination of a particular ranch?

Also not yet known — who was auditing this plant? How is it that they did not catch the places where raw and roasted product could become contaminated?

This has been a food safety investigation with information dripping out hour by hour. One gets the impression that neither the FDA nor the company are telling all they know.

FDA And Setton Pistachio Work The Information Game

The Failure Of The FDA
And The Nature Of Information

At the core of the behavior of the FDA on food safety is a misunderstanding of the kind of information that has value.

Various kinds of information cross the desks of FDA officials every day: This person got sick, this test came back positive. Sometimes, this kind of information is tied to a company or a commodity and, when it is, the executives at FDA feel a need to act.

Some action is certainly prudent. For example, if a test comes back positive, FDA should certainly want to see other tests around that product.

Despite our present problems, we are a phenomenally rich country, and if we want to force companies that have a positive test result to recall all the product between their last negative or thorough sanitation and today, it won’t do too much harm. Adopting a clear policy would, in fact, encourage companies to maintain clear breaks on their production lines so as to minimize the extent of any recalls.

But the banning of production by a company as we saw with the Honduran cantaloupes, or issuing recommendations not to consume products — which are defacto bans on whole industries as we saw with spinach, the tomato/chili pepper imbroglio and now with the pistachios — requires a different standard of proof.

We’ll leave aside for a moment the issue of whether the FDA ought to issue these broad recommendations not to consume at all — as opposed to simply informing people of the facts and letting them decide. For the moment let us just say this: If the FDA is going issue such recommendations, it ought to do so only when doing so enhances public health.

But, you may ask, isn’t that obvious? Isn’t every such FDA action enhancing public health? The answer is no, and the reason has to do with the usefulness of different classifications of information.

The thing to remember is that pathogens are not uncommon in the food supply. The CDC’s best estimate is that there are 76 million cases of foodborne illness in the United States each year. Since not every exposure to a pathogen results in an illness, there must be many more pathogens than this in the food supply.

We pointed out during the import alert against Agropecuaria Montelibano that the FDA’s position made no sense. Even if there had been salmonella on the company’s melons at one time, there was no reason to think that the product from this producer — an audited and widely praised producer — was more dangerous than unaudited product from a farm next door.

Equally, because pathogens are common in the food supply, the issue is not whether some other bit of salmonella can be found in pistachios somewhere; it is whether the pistachios being banned are less safe than the alternatives people will eat.

In the case of the Agropecuaria Montelibano cantaloupes, the answer clearly was no. It is also not clear at all that the FDA is helping public health by destroying the pistachio industry.

The problem is that the FDA treats its knowledge of something as in and of itself significant and it is not.

If you need an analogy, think of two large kiddie pools, each filled with a 1,000 children from infants to six years old. Now imagine Dr. Acheson is swimming with a child in one of the kiddie pools, call it Pool A, and a little boy comes up and reports to him that his brother just urinated in the pool, a fact the brother confirms.

We can leave aside issues of safety for now and just assume people would prefer not to swim in urine. The question is: Would Dr Acheson be acting prudently if, as a result of this knowledge, he got out of the pool and went to swim in the other kiddie pool, pool B?

The answer is that no, Dr. Acheson would be behaving irrationally because he would be putting weight on evidence — the child told him that his brother had urinated in the pool — as opposed to putting weight on the facts themselves.

As any parent knows, in a kiddie pool of a thousand little kids, there is plenty of urination going on — whether one gets a report on it or not. In fact, there is no reason at all to think that there is more urination going in Pool A than in Pool B, so Dr. Acheson, determined to swim with his young ward, might as well stay and swim in Pool A.

This situation is analogous to all of FDA’s bans. The FDA acquires some piece of information that, in and of itself, simply means nothing. If we tested every leaf of spinach, every cantaloupe, every chili pepper and every pistachio nut produced every day, we would find some baseline level of pathogens in the food supply. So a particular positive test result is not shocking, nor indicative of any horror. It may simply reflect that baseline.

The real problem with the pool analogy is that Dr. Acheson is not making decisions for himself. It is a free country and if he, as an individual, wants to switch pools that is his right. But, instead, he orders everyone out of the pool — although moving to the other pool does no good at all.

FDA And Setton Pistachio Work The Information Game

Setton’s Kosher Certifier
Sheds Light On Company’s Operations

Although it would not be correct to say that unethical people can’t get kosher certification, reputable certifiers will run if they get the feeling that management is looking to cut corners the instant the certifier leaves. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to conduct the conversation:

Rabbi Hanoka
Organized Kashrus Laboratories
OK Kosher Certification

Q: I understand certain Setton Pistachio products are certified kosher by your organization. Have you played a role in the recall?

A: OK does certify Setton pistachio products. We are working with Setton in assisting the company to help determine and notify customers and manufacturers that have purchased the pistachios that are being voluntarily recalled. It’s not even clear there’s a real danger, but there’s a concern, so we want to play it safe.

We have a first rate computer system that in a couple minutes generates a list of all companies using the products. A concept in Jewish law says something of questionable danger that can be harmful to one’s health has to be treated more seriously and more sensitively than something that’s forbidden to eat. It requires the upmost priority.

I want to make it clear this is the first time in Setton’s history there has been a question or recall of this nature. Please stress the point that I don’t feel it’s fair to make negative calls against the company, which took an aggressive stance once they learned there was a potential problem. It is still not clear if it originated at the Setton plant or if the contamination occurred elsewhere.

Q: Does your confidence in Setton stem from your kosher-certification procedures? What is involved in the certification process? Are there certain standards and requirements that could reflect well on a company’s food safety system?

A: Having product kosher-certified improves quality.

Q: How?

A: Kosher certification by definition means there’s an outside body, a regulatory body in this case, overseeing operations in a facility. We have records of all ingredients and formulas that we certify, and we are aware of and monitor the operations.

I was offered an opportunity to give certification on a facility, which was absolutely a mess and didn’t maintain proper records. We declined to do so. As a matter of policy, we won’t certify a facility without sufficient traceability and quality control systems in place. Setton has all these.

Q: How do you determine what’s sufficient? Is it subjective?

A: As a rabbi working in kosher certification, it’s safe to say I’ve visited over 500 manufacturing facilities, maybe closer to 1,000. We’re dealing with human beings. It’s possible even a leading company with strict food safety systems in place would need an adjustment with quality control.

When a large company takes food safety seriously, it puts buffer zones in place. So while it’s possible for one buffer zone to be breached, other buffer zones avert the real problem. It’s like putting a couple of fences around a puppy, and if one breaks, the puppy doesn’t get out.

We are not in the quality control business per se, but quality control and kosher do work together many times. Case in point, because of our sophisticated computer system, we can assist in quality control checks because we have very precise data that can be useful to everyone.

I have visited the Setton facility in California, and it’s a high-class, first-rate facility.

Q: Kraft said it sent auditors to Setton Pistachio and observed situations where raw and roasted pistachios were not properly segregated.

A: I’m not equipped or authorized to make any statements on what may have happened, but based on our experience, it is a facility that takes food safety in production seriously. I can say that for certain.

Q: Wouldn’t cross contamination of raw and finished product be a critical control point in a company’s HACCP plan? You would think the design flow of the plant would eliminate or at least severely blunt the possibility of raw product tainting finished goods.

A: The HACCP plan is not something we as a kosher agency would focus on in a routine visit. Design flow issues might not necessarily raise a red flag unless they directly affect a kosher system in place.

It’s not even clear where the problem originated or where the breakdown happened. It’s easy to kill a reputation of a company, God forbid, and very hard to repair it. You can go to any facility in the world and find something wrong. When you’re in a manufacturing climate and it relates to kosher, many safeguards are put in place to insure product integrity is not compromised. Even so, you can’t guarantee 100 percent that a problem won’t occur.

Q: But FDA says it has a zero tolerance policy regarding food safety.

A: That’s their job. Here’s a parable to think about: Would you take a 1,000 mile drive in an economy car, which has no air bags, no steel bars and is very light-weight? In terms of quality, most people don’t drive the safest car all the time. There’s an acceptable medium standard of transportation that would satisfy the masses, and if people put on their seatbelts and take certain precautionary measures, overwhelmingly it gets them to their destinations with a safe drive. God forbid there’s an accident; point one percent of the time, and the car didn’t offer adequate protection. It doesn’t necessarily mean the manufacturer was negligent in any way or that this vehicle is unsafe.

One also must consider an element of human error (and I hesitate to use it in this analogy because I don’t want to imply human error at Setton when we don’t know that). That human error could have contributed to the accident and does not call into question the safety systems in place.

There is also an act of God that has to be factored in any circumstance. The same can be said about food safety. If a company meets or exceeds acceptable levels of safety procedures, was there a breach in safety? If you take all the necessary precautions, 99.9 percent of the time there won’t be a problem. It’s important to keep food safety expectations in line with reality.

Q: Does the kosher certification have more weight with certain products and manufacturing processes? I imagine certifying pistachios would be more simplistic than products with numerous ingredients, or plants that are manufacturing a variety of diverse products that could get intermingled.

A: In certifying pistachios, a greater level of supervision is required depending on the level of processing. Higher standards require more oversight, and certain things are not tolerated. For example, adequate cleaning systems must be in place to avoid cross-contamination of product.

Q: But ironically, the concern in the Setton recall is cross-contamination between raw and roasted product.

A: Because raw pistachios by definition are kosher, in this case the issue of cross-contamination doesn’t relate. At times kosher requirements would enhance food safety and other times would not. Given that both raw and roasted pistachios are kosher-certified and usually denote the same kosher status, no special kosher cleanup would be required because there is no concern of cross-contamination. Both raw and roasted pistachios are kosher-compatible items.

Q: I would imagine just having another set of eyes scrutinizing operations could be beneficial in catching potential food safety problems.

A: I can point to many instances in my own experience throughout the years in facilities that manufacture other types of products different from Setton. One place comes to mind where I observed pallets not stacked properly, creating a safety hazard. I pointed it out and they fixed it. In another case, we were certifying specialized items in a manufacturing facility.

One of the operators was about to mistakenly mix two non-compatible chemicals that could have caused a danger of explosion. Our onsite Rabbi, who routinely checks formulations and workflow processes, noticed the discrepancy and reported it immediately to stop this from developing into a serious problem. I was about to ‘coterie’ a complicated piece of machinery that had many parts to it, and in inspecting the machine, noticed one part not adequately cleaned, with some food residue on it from a previous batch of product made a day before.

The next time the machine was going to be used, the company risked a cross-contamination and cleanliness issue. The procedural checking we go through has added value.

Q: How often do you visit operations for monitoring, and are these pre-scheduled or surprise visits?

A: I can’t divulge the frequency, but we visit on an unannounced, random basis. If we feel any facility is not up to our comfort level, based on our concern we do increase the frequency when necessary. Frequency is custom-tailored to the type of manufacturing. That frequency is determined by an expert Rabbi familiar with the nature of manufacturing for that type of product.

We require an immense amount of paper documentation from our customers, and not all kosher agencies demand such paperwork. We tell our customers it’s going to be cumbersome, but long term we’re doing them a favor with an enhanced level of protection, traceability and quality.

Q: Could you elaborate on how your tracking and quality-control systems work?

A: We certify with all manufactured goods on a per product basis. Backed up with a formula in our system, we’re able to hone in on a particular ingredient. We can immediately isolate it and find where this ingredient is being used. That’s a vital point. If making barbeque sauce with 100 ingredients, it’s even more complex. If an ingredient changes status from a kosher standpoint, we notify all customers of the change and make sure an acceptable ingredient is substituted.

Our kosher quality-control system has many aspects. What is involved with kosher certification varies. Does it lead to a safer product? In some instances I believe it does. From my experience, kosher certification certainly enhances the product and provides a climate for greater traceability and oversight than could otherwise be required.

Q: Are you aware of the separate report regarding Setton Pistachio’s sister company Setton International? The media has seized on a recent New York State Inspection of the Setton International facility based in Commack, New York that found bugs and pest control lapses. I know bugs are an issue with kosher certification…

A: These are two separate sister companies. My understanding is that bugs were not found in product. I don’t know any plant in the world that doesn’t have bugs. We are talking about huge facilities producing hundreds of thousands of safe products. Why would someone want to destroy someone’s reputation over this? This has nothing to do with Setton Pistachio or the salmonella investigation. Any reports trying to tie these issues together are not an accurate assessment. Someone could be trying to sabotage the company.

In Jewish law, if we have product not typically known to be infested, say an apple, you can find a worm in an apple but it’s not common, we have strict rules. If we find one worm, it doesn’t’ mean the whole batch is infested. We have to find three worms in the batch to find it problematic.

In the case of the pistachio contamination, just finding one incidence that they haven’t determined goes back to that Setton Pistachio facility. It wasn’t enough to indict the company of wrong-doing and destroy its reputation while doing serious damage to an entire industry.

We thank the good rabbi for his willingness to share his experience and his perspective with the industry.

These words were both helpful and profound:

“Here’s a parable to think about: Would you take a 1,000 mile drive in an economy car, which has no air bags, no steel bars and is very light weight? In terms of quality, most people don’t drive the safest car all the time. There’s an acceptable medium standard of transportation that would satisfy the masses, and if people put on their seatbelts and take certain precautionary measures, overwhelmingly it gets them to their destinations with a safe drive. God forbid there’s an accident; point one percent of the time, and the car didn’t offer adequate protection. It doesn’t necessarily mean the manufacturer was negligent in any way or that this vehicle is unsafe.”

We have often pointed out the oddity in the way the government views food safety as opposed to automotive safety. Cars crash, people die and the government doesn’t recommend against driving or even driving that particular car. In the absence of some specific problem that is uncovered, the automotive model generally continues being produced unchanged.

Yet, we know how to make safer cars — as we have repeated over and over again — we don’t do so because doing so has a cost.

The rabbi is raising the point that you can’t look at the end result — a car accident — or a spot of salmonella in food — even an illness or death from food — and ascertain solely from that whether the producer was negligent. This is because we choose to allow the production — of both autos and food — under less-than-ideal standards.

Now legally, this makes no difference in the US — although perhaps it should. A manufacturer who sells adulterated food is liable. So no amount of rigor in one’s food safety program indemnifies one against liability — this is a significant disincentive to invest in the highest standard of food safety.

Where it should make a difference though is in FDA policy. The finding of salmonella or even — what they have not found so far in this case… an illness — simply is not very significant, just as finding out that a particular car model can crash and people can die is not surprising.

We also found the rabbi’s comments on the New York inspection telling:

“My understanding is that bugs were not found in product. I don’t know any plant in the world that doesn’t have bugs. We are talking about huge facilities producing hundreds of thousands of safe products. Why would someone want to destroy someone’s reputation over this? This has nothing to do with Setton Pistachio or the salmonella investigation. Any reports trying to tie these issues together are not an accurate assessment. Someone could be trying to sabotage the company.”

Many people are grasping at straws. There’s no there there. The substance is lacking. That the entire pistachio industry has been crushed based on this evidence is astonishing.

Many thanks to Rabbi Hanoka and OK Kosher Certification for sharing their perspective with the industry.

FDA And Setton Pistachio Work The Information Game

Much Ado About Two Cockroaches:
Setton’s New York Affiliate
Caught Up In The Inane

Setton Pistachio, the California pistachio packer and roaster, mentions on its Web site that it is affiliated with a Long Island, New York-based organization named Setton International. The precise affiliation is unclear, presumably separate corporations under common ownership. In any case, when Georgia Nut Company found salmonella on pistachios from Setton Pistachio that were dedicated for trail mix to be sold by Kraft, many looked to Setton International to get a sense of the rigor with which the people behind the name approached food safety.

When it was determined that the New York affiliate had recently failed an inspection, some saw that as confirmation the California company was doing something wrong. We wanted to better understand this New York State inspection and asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more:

Jessica Chittenden
Division of Food Safety and Inspection
New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets
Albany, New York.

Q: Could you provide a copy of the full New York State inspection report conducted this March at Setton International Foods and help put into perspective the significance of the findings?

A: Here is a copy of the report.

In New York, our inspection reports are separated into two sections: critical deficiencies — these are violations that could pose an immediate health threat. Then there are also general deficiencies — these are found during inspections and are considered more housekeeping items, but won’t pose an immediate health risk.

Q: How did Setton International fair in these two sections? Did the inspection team find significant violations that could pose an immediate health threat?

A: We did find a critical deficiency, just one. But even one causes them to fail the inspection. We found two live cockroaches. One was in the employee break room and one was in a storage room where food is kept.

Q: What is the company’s inspection history? Was this finding of one critical deficiency an anomaly or has the company failed New York State inspections in the past? How often do you inspect this facility? And was this inspection in March routine or initiated based on separate investigations regarding salmonella contamination going on at its sister company, Setton Pistachio in Terra Bella, California?

A: This was a routine inspection. We try to do them once a year. This is not required, but for the most part we do them annually. Setton International Foods has passed every inspection since 2000. What happens when we find a critical deficiency in a store or foodservice facility, we won’t leave or let the company continue to operate until the problem is fixed.

Q: What steps has Setton International needed to take to satisfy New York State that the critical deficiency, in this case discovery of two live cockroaches, has been eliminated and there is no longer any immediate risk posed to human health?

A: The two cockroaches were disposed of and the area was sanitized. We’ll follow up with an unannounced inspection in the near future.

Q: Bob Fauteax, a Setton International spokesperson, said that both New York State inspectors and FDA went back to the plant after it took corrective action and at no time did they mention they had identified any insect or rodent activity.

A: We did go back into the plant on April 1, after the Kraft recall announcement was made, and collected eight food samples and nine environmental samples to be tested at our lab in Albany for salmonella. Those results we expect this week. While we were there, we were not conducting an official inspection. The New York State inspectors did say they saw considerable improvements since they were there in March, but we will follow up with an official inspection there in the very near future. That would be considered a re-inspection.

Q: Discovery of two cockroaches in an employee break room and food storage area, while decidedly unappealing, doesn’t shock me. I lived in New York City for years, and even in the wealthiest, high-end areas of Manhattan, whether in fancy apartment buildings, gourmet food establishments or somewhere close by, you’d see an occasional cockroach.

A: I did find it almost humorous that a woman who writes for New York Newsday was “outraged” that there were two cockroaches there. The moral of the story is we do take protection of public health very seriously. We did find two large cockroaches there and cockroaches can spread bacteria, so it was incumbent upon us to take action. But it’s important to understand that this establishment has a very good track record.

Q: What about the other general deficiencies? How common is it find these types of problems in a manufacturing facility such as this? Could you provide some context?

A: One of the general deficiencies we found was old rodent droppings in a warehouse. The reason why that is considered a general deficiency is twofold: first, the droppings were old, if they were fresh that would have been different. And second, they were in a warehouse, not a processing plant. Therefore, this is not considered a critical deficiency and we won’t fail an establishment for that. It won’t pose a public health risk because those droppings were out in a warehouse, but we still want it corrected.

In the report, there are numerous deficiencies, and if Setton International corrected them all, it would be perfect. I don’t know if we’ve every seen an establishment that’s perfect. Our goal is to help our companies be in compliance. So therefore, we are very diligent on these inspections to point out every detail that could be improved in an establishment. We are very particular.

Q: It doesn’t sound like this inspection would have seen the light of day in the media if not for the Setton Pistachio investigation. What is your assessment?

A: This would have never gotten press attention if it wasn’t for the issue of contaminated pistachios. Honestly, the reason why this inspection even came up was because a California reporter noticed on Setton Pistachio’s Website it had [a sister company] in New York and called me to get the latest inspection report. From there it bloomed, and the whole thing became sensationalized with confusing reports.

From a safety standpoint, we see that Setton International took a proactive stance. When we were there on Wednesday, April 1, they said they’d segregated all products that contained pistachios and were voluntarily holding them back from distribution until they knew more information, and then issued their recall on April 3.

In the aftermath of the poor inspection reports received by The Peanut Corporation Of America, The New York Times ran a funny Op-ed detailing all the animal parts and other unappetizing items that are completely permissible in food.

The finding of two live cockroaches is undesirable, but not something we can get ourselves worked up about. There are so many vagaries in the way these inspections are conducted. Some inspectors are tough, some are lax, some want pay-offs.

Many will recall we ran stories here and here about the KFC/Taco Bell unit in Manhattan that had passed its inspection the day before — and then was covered in rats the next day.

We just don’t see anything meaningful in this report. Many thanks to Jessica Chittenden of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets for walking us through this matter.

FDA And Setton Pistachio Work The Information Game

What Not To Do When
Handling Crisis Communications

One reason we follow food safety issues closely is because there are many issues that apply to everyone regardless of which products they sell.

In food safety, one of those issues is communications. It is part of every crisis management plan yet very often exercised very poorly.

In the current crisis over pistachios, both Setton Pistachio and its affiliate Setton International are making the same mistake. Each has hired a PR firm as its representative. These folks are quick to answer the phone and great at promising to get back to you but, unfortunately, know virtually nothing about the company and so are unable to answer questions beyond passing out pre-approved statements.

They become, in effect, high-priced messengers.

Some may think it terribly clever to control information flow in this way, but we doubt it. By restricting information and not having knowledgeable people speak to reporters, the company does three things:

First, it arouses suspicion — what are they hiding? This encourages reporters to dig deeper and show more interest than they would otherwise.

Second, by withholding information the company literally increases the value of information about the company. It creates the possibility of scoops and exclusives and thus encourages the investment of investigative resources into the story that normally would go elsewhere.

Third, it drags the story out. These stories live on “new information,” so it really behooves companies to get the information out quickly. Like a fire without oxygen, stories without new information typically die.

So don’t think a line in your crisis management plan, saying “Have XYZ PR firm interface with the press,” is a solution to the problem. It just raises the question of who is going to be available to interface quickly and comprehensively with the PR firm.

FDA And Setton Pistachio Work The Information Game

More Oddities Revealed
On Setton’s Website

The Setton Farms Website contains a complete tab on organic:

Bringing Organic Back to Earth

Setton Farms Certified Organic products are grown in accordance with strict standards and requirements set forth in the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, which is verified by an independent state or private organization. Certification includes inspections of farm fields and processing facilities, detailed record keeping, and periodic testing of soil and water to ensure that growers and handlers are meeting the standards which have been set.

Organic N & I certifies Setton’s facilities and all of the organic products manufactured.

Organically Grown

Organic food production is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers. To maintain the integrity of the food, Setton organic products are minimally processed without artificial ingredients, preservatives or irradiation.

Organic Food, Becoming Mainstream

Consumers of organic foods include people of all ages and backgrounds. Organic foods comprise the fastest growing segment of the food market.

• According to the USDA, U.S. Organic food sales have increased 23% annually — Five times faster than food sales in general.

• Nearly 40% of shoppers are reaching for products labeled organic and 2006 sales are expected to reach more than $11 billion.

• The USDA reveals nearly two-thirds (65%) of Americans have tried organic foods and beverages, jumping from just over half (54%) in both 2003 and 2004.

• The growth in the sale of organic foods is attributed to the sales in mainstream retail outlets, and select natural food grocery chains.

• Mainstream retail markets will account for 60% of total sales.

The Setton Farms Advantage

Setton Farms organic products are produced with the highest quality ingredients and the same dedication to excellence as all other Setton Farms products. Setton Pistachio organic products have been tailored to meet the needs of your business.

• Convenient, resealable containers lock in freshness

• Smaller size packaging offers attractive price points

• Eye-catching graphics and labels

• Display friendly, “ready for the shelves”

• Attractive display options are available to increase product visibility

• Bulk Product is also available

• Setton Innovation

Check regularly for new organic nuts, dried fruits, trail mixes and snacks. Setton Farms’ advanced product development team is constantly bringing new items, new packaging and new display options to the market to ensure that our customers remain the most current in this rapidly growing industry.

Yet something is very odd. The certification on the Website is from 2005, and it is issued not to the California company, but to the Long Island company. Yet the Website clearly states that “Organic N & I certifies Setton’s facilities…” plural.

Nobody is talking but one thing an organic certifier would normally be sensitive to is comingling of product. So it might have caught this opportunity for raw and roasted product to mingle — unless the California facility isn’t organic certified at all.

The 2005 certificate doesn’t mean much; many industry Websites are out of date, but the Website clearly implies that the California facility is organic-certified. As best as we can see, that is not likely to be true. Perhaps the Long Island facility was just buying direct from certified organic farmers and it repacked their product. But if organic product was going through the California facility, that would probably not have been permitted the way their certificate is worded.

You can see the company’s last posted organic certification here.

FDA And Setton Pistachio Work The Information Game

Pistachio Industry Sets Up
Website To Clear Companies

The pistachio industry has set up a Website at PistachioRecall.Org to keep the world informed of which brands are NOT implicated in the salmonella issue:

The CAL-PURE co-op of California pistachio growers (“CAL-PURE”) and the Western Pistachio Association (“WPA”) have created this consumer website to list the brands reported as not containing any pistachio products from Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella, Inc, which has initiated a voluntary recall of pistachios due to potential contamination with the Salmonella organism.

The vast majority of pistachio products and foods containing pistachio products do not contain pistachios from Setton. A list of products not containing pistachios from Setton is set forth in the side bar. For a list of products affected by the recall, consumers should visit www.fda.gov/pistachios/. Consumers should go to company and brand websites for further information about specific products.

CAL-PURE and the WPA continue to work closely with regulators and industry leaders to monitor the progress and scope of the voluntary recall, with consumer health and safety as their primary concern. Given the fluid nature of the recall, this website will be revised and amended on an ongoing basis.

The website lists the following brands as “not implicated” in the salmonella issue:

·A&P Growers

·American Golden


·Berkley & Jensen Pistachios

·Braga Farms

·Braga Organic Farms

·Cal Delights

·Cal Fruit and Nut

·Country Best


·Curry & Associates

·CVS Gold Emblem Natural Pistachios

·CVS Gold Emblem Pistachio Kernels

·Divine Organics

·Doug Braga

·Eagle Ranch Pistachios

·Eden Organic

·Everybody’s Nuts Pistachios

·Futters Nut Butter

·Garvey Nut


·Golden Orchards Pistachios

·Gust Picoulas Nut Company

·Harris Ranch

·Heart of the Desert

·Horizon Growers

·Keenan Farms

·Kirkland Everybody’s Nuts


·La Montanita Food

·Living Intentions

·Maisie Jane’s


·Marra Bros.

·Melace Family

·Meridian Nut Growers

·Monarch Nut Company

·Mount Hope

·Natural Lee

·Nichols Farms

·Nichols Pistachio

·Nutland Nut Crunch

·Nuts and Spice

·Paramount Farms

·Pistachio Corporation of Arizona

·Primex Farms

·Rosetti Fine Foods

·Royal Himalayan

·Sam’s International

·San Joaquin Valley Farms

·Santa Barbara Pistachio Company


·Sherman Thomas Ranch

·Sierra View Farms

·Smith & Sons Pistachios

·Snack Club


·Southern Grove

·Specialty Commodities

·Steve’s Pistachios

·Sunkist Pistachios

·Sunridge Farms

·Ted’s Pistachios

·The Nutty Gourmet

·Todd’s Treats

·Wonderful Pistachios

·Yurosek Farms

It is a good effort, but a lot of the consumer confusion revolves around manufactured products. What brands of pistachio ice cream did not buy pistachios from Setton? Perhaps the industry could expand the Web site to focus on these more problematic manufacturers.

You can check out the effort here.

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