A basic error on the production lines at a processing plant is thought to have contaminated pistachios with salmonella. According to David Acheson, assistant commissioner for food protection at the Food and Drug Administration, Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella, California, the nation's second-largest processor of the nut, ran raw and roasted pistachios through the same machinery on several production lines. Good manufacturing standards call for keeping raw and roasted nuts separate so that bacteria do not spread between the two.
Acheson believes the company was apparently aware that it had a salmonella problem because its own tests found the bacteria on roasted nuts. Managers ran the nuts through the roasting process a second time to kill the bacteria before shipping them to customers. Acheson termed that an acceptable way to – recondition - the product.
Federal officials have warned consumers to temporarily stop eating all foods containing pistachios. Acheson says - our advice is to avoid eating pistachio products; don't throw them out, hold on to them as we learn more about this. No illnesses have been linked to the nuts from Setton. Two people have complained to the FDA that they got sick after eating pistachios, but health officials have not made any definitive connection to the nuts in question.