“Wonderful” Brand Recall May Eclipse Recalls by Additional Companies, Brands
Pistachios have been in the headlines lately, but for all the wrong reasons: some of the nuts are contaminated with Salmonella, and recalls by three companies are underway. Products involved in the first pistachio recall are linked to a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Montevideo.
The two additional pistachio recalls announced a day later also involve positive Salmonella tests. Officials have not yet linked these pistachios with any cases of Salmonella, but say that due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported (2 to 4 weeks on average), there may be outbreak cases that state agencies have not yet reported to the CDC.
Wonderful Pistachios Announces First Recall
Wonderful Pistachios announced the first recall on March 9th. The company voluntarily recalled aa multitude of products sold nationwide,and in Canada, Mexico, and Peru.
The recalled products were sold under multiple brand names – “Wonderful,” “Paramount Farms” and “Trader Joe’s.” Since many nuts, including pistachios, have long shelf lives, health agencies expressed concerns that the recalled product may still be in consumers’ homes.
The sheer magnitude of the recall alone resulted in widespread press coverage. When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced an ongoing outbreak of Salmonella Montevideo linked to the recalled nuts, coverage increased exponentially.
The outbreak, according to an outbreak alert issued by the CDC on the same day Wonderful Pistachios announced the recall, involved eleven outbreak cases spread across nine states. Two cases were confirmed in both Washington and Arizona, while Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Virginia each confirmed one case involving the outbreak strain. Two cases required hospitalization due to the severity of illness.
Two New Pistachio Recalls Announced on Day Following “Wonderful” Announcement
Two additional companies announced pistachio recalls on March 1oth, the day after Wonderful Pistachios and the CDC released information about the outbreak and the first recall.
Kanan Enterprises Inc., a Solon, Ohio corporation, recalled “Favorites Natural Pistachios” at the request of the third-party producer that supplied the pistachios. The product was distributed to and sold by convenience stores nationwide. The third-party supplier asked the company to issue the recall because the pistachios had the “potential to be contaminated with Salmonella,” according to Kanan Enterprises’ press release.
Boerne, Texas’ Texas Star Nut and Food Co. Inc. recalled “Nature’s Eat Natural Pistachio Kernels” on March 10th after a random sample analyzed by a third-party FDA-contracted lab tested positive for salmonella. This recall, more limited geographically, targeted only Texas and Louisiana consumers and retail locations.
“Wonderful” Announcement Eclipses Subsequent Recalls
The Kanan Enterprises and Texas Star Nut recalls went largely unreported – especially when compared to the coverage received by the Wonderful Pistachio situation – leaving consumers largely uninformed. The vast majority of consumers depend on news outlets to report information about product recalls. Consumers are left vulnerable when a recall goes un- or under-reported. The pistachio recalls epitomize this problem.
Wonderful Pistachios is a large, nationally-known company. The company launched a number of advertising campaigns promoting its pistachios, an effort that included airing a Wonderful Pistachios ad featuring Stephen Colbert during the 2014 Super Bowl. When a company this well-known issues a large-scale recall, people pay attention.
Add to the company’s notoriety a multistate outbreak of food poisoning severe enough to warrant the attention of the CDC and FDA, and you have on your hands a situation where comparatively small events will go unnoticed.
Texas Star Nut expanded its recall five days after Wonderful Pistachio’s first press release, an event that received even less attention than the company’s initial recall. The Wonderful Pistachio recall and outbreak were so overwhelming when compared to coverage of the other two recalls that even the announcement that all three recalls could be connected – FDA spokesman David Steigman admitted that the agency was “working to confirm whether the recalls are all related” – was picked up by only a small number of media outlets.