Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pecan Company Comes Out Of Its Shell

July 15, 2009

Pecan suppliers across the United States can't be very happy with General Mills these days. On July 8th, the company announced a limited recall of certain lots of Nature Valley Granola Nut Clusters, due to the possibility that pecans used in the Nut Clusters might be "... tainted with Salmonella."

In making this announcement, General Mills chose not to identify the supplier of the suspect pecans. Coming on the heels of major recalls of Salmonella-contaminated peanuts and pistachios earlier this year, General Mills' coyness may have the effect of tainting the reputation of all US pecan suppliers.

One pecan supplier, in particular, seems to think so. Two days after General Mills announced its product recall, Farmers Investment Co., the owner of Green Valley Pecan Co., notified the media that its pecans were NOT involved in the General Mills recall in any way. Surprisingly, other pecan suppliers have not bothered to make similar announcements. Nor has the National Pecan Shellers Association spoken up in defense of its members.

FDA also has been silent on this issue. It would be nice to have answers from General Mills and from FDA to the following questions.
  • Who supplied the "suspect" pecans to General Mills?
  • How and when were the pecans found to be Salmonella-positive?
  • Who else purchased pecans from the mystery supplier during the same time period as General Mills?
  • What is FDA doing to follow up on this potential health hazard?

We're all ears!


  1. I doubt you will hear much from the pecan processors on this as it prolongs the news coverage which is bad for the entire pecan industry. At the moment, it is one lot shipped to one customer that is being recalled. As I am not party to the transaction, I don't think I have the basis to say who it is but I did some research to track down who the supplier was as I am in the nut business and it is of concern to me.

    It is possible that General Mills doesn't want to throw a supplier under the bus after the industry saw what happened to Setton Pistachio after Kraft notified the FDA about a positive salmonella test. Perhaps your perspective is different than mine, but I found Setton to be a very reputable company that appeared to be singled out for destruction by the feds as an overcorrection to save face from the Peanut Corp fiasco and Setton was lucky to have survived the ordeal. Even your text above puts the pistachio and peanut recalls on the same level. 600+ sick and at least 9 deaths from knowingly shipping tainted peanuts vs. a voluntary pistachio recall without a single person getting sick. One was a company behaving criminally. The other was a company being as dilligent as possible after what might be considered a statistical outlier/black swan event.

    I do not know if we want the FDA to come running at every voluntary recall when people don't even get sick any more than you or I want 20 cops showing up at your house with guns drawn if your car alarm goes off for 5 seconds or child protective services to pay a house visit every time a kid gets a scraped knee.

    I had dealings with the peanut, pistachio and pecan suppliers in question. The peanut guys we officially black listed as a supplier years before the recall due to a distrust of the management. The pistachio supplier has shown their resolve in food safety by their actions in dealing with the situation.

    The pecan supplier, well I have sold to them in the past and they are a competitor of mine in another nut industry and I have always found them to be a solid reputable company and would expect to see them do their due dilligence investigating and making any necessary corrections to their procedures to prevent future occurances. I certainly don't think they deserve the treatment Setton Pistachio received.

  2. Thanks, Mike P., for taking the time to provide another perspective on this story.



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