- The Washington Times - Friday, April 10, 2009

FRESNO, CALIF. (AP) - New York officials said Friday they found no trace of salmonella in a Long Island nut processing plant whose sister company sparked a vast nationwide recall of pistachios last week.

Inspectors received negative results on nine environmental swabs of Commack, N.Y.-based Setton International Foods, Inc. and 10 sample tests of company food products, including lab results from raw nut mix and dark chocolate pistachios, New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker said.

The probe was conducted in tandem with an investigation into Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella, Inc. in California, where federal food safety officials on Monday announced they found traces of the bacteria in “critical areas” inside the plant.

Setton Pistachio has temporarily shut down. It recalled more than 2 million pounds of potentially tainted nuts last week, then significantly expanded its recall of raw and roasted nuts Monday. The dozens of products swept up in the recall now include nuts distributed by online New York grocer FreshDirect and others sold to raise money for Girl Scout councils. No Girl Scout cookies are affected.

By Friday, 14 million pounds had been recalled, a company spokeswoman said. Dr. David Acheson, the Food and Drug Administration’s assistant commissioner for food safety, said this week the company told the government it may need to recall up to 20 million pounds of nuts.

Meantime, New York inspectors are continuing to interview Setton’s customers to ensure the nut supplier told them that their pistachios could be tainted, Hooker said.

Setton’s Terra Bella plant is the nation’s second-largest pistachio processor and sells its nuts to Kraft Foods Inc. and 35 other wholesalers, which use them in products including ice cream to cake mixes.

Roasting pistachios is supposed to kill salmonella, a naturally occuring bacteria. But FDA officials believe raw and roasted nuts could have become cross-contaminated on equipment near Setton Pistachio’s industrial roaster.

So far, no pistachio-related illnesses have been reported.

Last month, in a random visit unrelated to the recall, a New York state inspector found nearly two dozen live and dead cockroaches and rodent droppings at the Commack factory, which produces chocolate and yogurt-coated nuts and dried fruit.

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