Pistachio plant failed inspection

The Associated PressApril 3, 2009 

— The probe into a nationwide salmonella scare over pistachios shifted Thursday from a California nut processor to its sister company in New York, where inspectors last month found cockroaches and rodent droppings.

The Food and Drug Administration said Commack-based Setton International Foods Inc. shares key staff and packages food with Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella Inc., the nation's second-largest pistachio processor. The central California plant earlier this week recalled 2million pounds of nuts over fears of possible salmonella contamination.

A spokesman for both companies said the California plant supplies all pistachios used in the 50,000-square-foot Long Island processing facility, which makes chocolate- and yogurt-coated nuts and dried fruit.

Last month, New York agricultural authorities discovered nearly two dozen dead cockroaches, rodent droppings and one live cockroach on an ingredient rolling rack inside the Commack plant. The facility failed its state health inspection.

Lee Cohen, production manager for Setton International Foods, said Thursday that the plant has stopped shipping pistachios and has addressed the concerns. He said the problems weren't related to the recall and that the plant is now spotless.

Inspectors went back for a second visit Wednesday to swab the plant and take food samples to be tested for salmonella and other pathogens as part of the pistachio recall, said Jessica Chittenden, a spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets. The results of those tests are pending.

The FDA said the agency was "investigating all aspects of the company's operations" but could not disclose details.

So far, there have been no confirmed reports of illness linked to the recalled nuts.

Still, federal health officials warned people this week to avoid eating all pistachios as well as products containing them while they determine what foods could be tainted.

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