Statement on Salmonella and Food Safety

Posted on May 24th, 2004

BALLICO, CA – May 24, 2004. (Revised June 7, 2004)  On May 18th, Paramount Farms issued a voluntary domestic recall of their raw almonds sold under certain brands. This initial recall was issued after five people were reported to contract salmonella after eating raw almonds originally processed by Paramount Farms.

On Friday, May 21, the recall expanded to a wider range of brands inside and outside the U.S., to cover 13 million pounds of raw almonds after the FDA discovered that a Michigan resident was diagnosed with salmonella shortly after eating raw almonds three months ago. The expanded recall now includes almonds under the Kirkland Signature, Sunkist, and Trader Joe’s brands with a “best before” date of August 21, 2004, or later. For precautionary purposes they are including raw almonds for these brands and dates in Mexico, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, France, England and Italy.

Salmonella is a food borne illness, a bacterium with a widespread habitat. The strain that has been found in almonds is Salmonella enteritidis (S.e.). Symptoms include stomach cramps, fever, and nausea. To learn more about the illness, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/salment_g.htm

It is important to remember that 95% of almonds eaten in the United States undergo some form of further processing, such as blanching, roasting or baking, before consumption. All of these forms would kill any potential bacterium such as Salmonella.

The first known relationship between a case of Salmonella and almond consumption occurred in Canada in 2001. This problem was quickly addressed  by the Almond Board of California, the supplier, and government agencies. Since then the Almond Board as well as industry leaders have been researching ways to prevent salmonella in almonds.

At Hilltop Ranch we have been developing a patent-pending pasteurization process since 2002. We continue to conduct scientific studies to demonstrate the effectiveness of this process. Almond pasteurization testing consists of almonds passing through a chamber heated by steam to temperatures between 250 to 300 degrees F for up to eight seconds. We believe this quick, one-of-a-kind process is ideal because it kills any potentially harmful bacteria without changing the texture or taste of the almond kernels.

Another issue in food safety is traceability. Every shipment of almonds from Hilltop Ranch can be traced right back to a specific grower and orchard.

This year the Almond Hullers and Processors Association conducted an unannounced sanitation inspection of our facilities and we were one of just five processors to receive a “Superior” rating.

We appreciate the cautionary steps taken by Paramount Farms. Overall we do not think consumers should be too concerned about eating raw almonds. We just think this is a good reminder to growers of the importance of good agricultural practices (GAP’s) in the orchard and to processors of the necessity for good manufacturing practices (GMP’s) in the plant.

If you have general questions about the recall you can contact Ms. Stacey Kollmeyer of the Almond Board directly at skollmeyer@almondboard.com or 1-209-343-3225. Consumers can call 800-610-5388 with specific concerns.

Also, please feel free to contact me or anyone else here at Hilltop Ranch with your concerns. We will continue to improve the safety and quality of our almond products to our customers around the world.

Best Regards,

Dan Whisenhunt
Director of Sales
Hilltop Ranch, Inc.

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