Friday, October 28, 2011

Attack of the Salmonella Pine Nuts

While I fully support people eating a healthy diet, people need to realize that eating traditionally healthy foods is not always risk-free and can sometimes be dangerous. In yet another story documenting the potential harms of eating traditionally healthy foods, such as bean sprouts and cantaloupes, is a story out of the Northeast that Turkish pine nuts sold in bulk at Wegman’s supermarket stores were contaminated with salmonella. Salmonella is a dangerous type of bacteria that can cause food poisoning (fever, diarrhea, stomach cramps), hospitalization, and even death (usually in the elderly and people with poor immune systems). Although 40 people have been sickened (since 8/20/11) and two have been hospitalized from these contaminated pine nuts, none have died to date and Wegman’s has recalled the pine nuts. Pine nuts are actually edible seeds from pines. They are an important ingredient in pesto.

The pine nuts story comes on the heels on another story earlier this month of 3,000 bagged salads and spinach blends from Taylor Farms Retail that were recalled due to possible salmonella contamination.

The full story on the pine nuts is presented below, which comes from Ben Dobbin at The Associated Press.

Turkish pine nuts sold in bulk at Wegmans, an upscale grocery-store chain, have been linked to a salmonella outbreak that sent two people to hospitals and sickened 40 others in five East Coast states and Arizona.

Wegmans Food Markets Inc. said Thursday it has recalled 5,000 pounds of pine nuts imported from Turkey by Sunrise Commodities of Englewood Cliffs, N.J. They were sold between July 1 and Oct. 18 at its stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland.

The Rochester, N.Y.-based chain said the recall applies only to Turkish pine nuts purchased in bulk. Wegmans placed automated calls to just over 13,000 customers who bought the nuts using the company's Shoppers Club discount card, spokeswoman Jo Natale said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 26 people were sickened in New York, eight in Pennsylvania, four in Virginia, two in New Jersey and one person each in Arizona and Maryland. The Food and Drug Administration said it is investigating.

The CDC said people began getting sick Aug. 20 and two patients were hospitalized in undisclosed locations. No deaths have been linked to the outbreak.

Federal officials said Wegmans has cooperated in all aspects of the recall and investigation.
Salmonella bacteria can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. In some cases, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized.

Some Turkish pine nuts were eaten as an ingredient in prepared foods, such as Caprese salad or asparagus with pine nuts, according to the CDC. The median age of those who were sickened is 43 years.
Wegmans, a 96-year-old, family owned business credited with helping pioneer "one-stop shopping," has 79 supermarket stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts.

The pine nuts were not sold at Wegmans' new store in Northborough, Mass., and possibly other stores with small bulk-food departments, Natale said. "On average, the quantity purchased by individual customers would have been somewhere between an eighth of a pound and a quarter of a pound," she said. "Not everybody who bought the nuts used a Shoppers Club card, but the vast majority are represented by those 13,000-plus people we called."

Wegmans has carried Turkish pine nuts from the same supplier since May 2010. "We are very sorry for the worry and inconvenience this (recall) may cause our customers," it said in a statement.

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