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Setton resumes pistachio shipments

by Joel Gebet | June 07, 2009
After a major March recall involving millions of pounds of its pistachios, Setton Pistachios of Terra Bella Inc. in Terra Bella, CA, has begun roasting and shipping pistachios once again.

Mia Cohen, chief operating officer, told The Produce News June 2 that the firm has "just this week resumed roasting and shipping pistachios after completing a series of important steps, with the knowledge of [the Food & Drug Administration]. We're shipping to our very loyal customers that have really supported us through this whole process, and we're focused on that right now."

She said that the company has "made significant changes to our facility with the guidance of FDA and a third-party food-safety expert," and that "effectively, the recall is, for the most part, over. We've gotten back most of the product that we're going to get back and we are just moving forward and thinking toward the future."

Ms. Cohen said that "as the second-largest pistachio processor, Setton Pistachios of Terra Bella Inc. has always been focused on food safety and producing a top-quality, wholesome product for our customers and consumers. As a family-owned-and-operated company, we take great pride in producing top-quality products, and as a result we took the recall very seriously and took responsibility right away and proactively started making changes to our facility and operations."

She noted that the firm had "done all of this even though there were no illnesses conclusively linked to our product. Prior to this event, the industry's prevailing view was that pathogens were not present in raw pistachios, and this experience showed us that pathogens can be present in a very small percentage of raw pistachios. As a result, pathogen control wasn't incorporated into anybody's HACCP [standard operating procedures]."

As a result of the recall, she said that Setton "implemented a rigorous testing process and will only be sending lots which test negative on for processing. Lots which test positive will be treated and retested."

She said that the firm has made several changes, both physical and operational, to its Terra Bella, CA plant, including "upgrading components of our roasters, installing new machinery and equipment, adding new state-of- the-art sanitation equipment, and having our roasters scientifically validated by a very reputable third-party process authority firm. We have redesigned our plant to completely segregate raw product from ready-to-eat products."

Ms. Cohen said that Setton has "invested significantly to address what we consider to be a very important commitment on our part to food safety. Like other successful companies, we are always looking for ways to improve ourselves, and as a result of this, with this new information, we took the opportunity to implement these changes to make us the food safety leader in the industry.

"Having said that," she continued, "we don't think food safety should be a competitive advantage, so we've taken all these lessons learned and best practices with all the knowledge we've gained and we've shared that with the industry so that other pistachio processors can benefit from our experience and learn and grow from it, incorporate pathogen control into their HACCP programs, and as an industry we can make sure we are producing a safe, top- quality, wholesome product for American consumers."

Now that the firm has implemented all of these major changes, Ms. Cohen said that it is "positioned well to make changes efficiently and effectively to react to the ever changing marketplace. Making the appropriate aggressive changes will keep us an industry leader."