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Salmonella ‘Niche’ Found at Pecan Re-Packer

Pecan pieces, recalled last February by the American Pecan Company of Yancey, TX, were not only contaminated with Salmonella oranienburg, but were also misbranded.

The one-pound bags of Pecan Pieces in small, medium, and large sizes did not contain “a statement of identity” on the label and several lacked a Nutrition Facts” panel as well.

American Pecan Company sold the pecans it recalled both to walk-up customers at its facility in Yancey and through mail order to customers in Texas, New York, and Massachusetts.

Investigators from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who inspected the pecan repackaging facility between Jan. 11 and Feb. 10, 2010, discovered the S. oranienburg through routine sample collection.

In a recently released June 25 warning letter, FDA discussed its findings with American Pecan, saying: “Analysis of the sample revealed the product to be contaminated with Salmonella oranienburg (S. oranienburg).  Salmonella, including S. oranienburg, is a micro-organism that is known to be pathogenic to humans.”

FDA said the ready-to-eat pecans were adulterated food products.

Environmental samples from “various locations” within the Pecan facility were taken for testing.  Positive samples were returned for both Salmonella Newport (S. Newport) and S. oranienburg.

The warning letter said Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) testing determined that six isolates of S. Newport were indistinguishable from one another.  FDA said that is significant “because this indicates the Salmonella may have established a niche in your manufacturing facility…”

American Pecan is being urged by FDA to enact “strict sanitation measures” to clean and sanitize all food contact surfaces.

In the warning letter, FDA also informed American Pecans that it might qualify for exemptions from certain labeling requirements under the Small Business Nutrition Labeling Exemption Notice.

American’s manager told FDA the company might use a third party vendor to sterilize pecans in the future.  FDA is concerned about the plywood floors at the Yancey facility where some positive Salmonella samples were found.

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