If you’ve bought raw macadamia nuts from a number of retailers across the country, it’s time to check your pantry: nuts sold at retailers including Target, HyVee, Pear’s Gourmet, and independent grocery stores that carry Western Family brands have been recalled because they may be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. Why is it that raw dried nuts keep getting recalled for problems with that one pathogen, anyway?
The Food and Drug Administration was performing some random sampling because that’s how they roll (and how they try to keep us safe from food-borne harm), and found Salmonella present in a sample from the company that packages all of these products, Marathon Ventures in Nebraska.
If you have any question about your own macadamia nuts or about the recall, you can contact the company at (402) 934-8223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Raw macadamia nuts get recalled a lot: today, Food Safety News published a feature article asking why this is, and how it can be prevented. (Food Safety News, by the way, is an independent news site published by Marler Clark, a law firm that handles food safety cases.)
According to a 2012 report from the United Nations, one likely reason why macadamia nuts end up contaminated is because they are sometimes harvested from the ground, not the trees.
Many nuts are harvested directly from the orchard floor after being mechanically or hand shaken, cut from the tree by hand and then thrown to the ground, or allowed to fall naturally. This results in significant mixing of the nuts with soil and plant debris. Contaminants picked up at harvest may then be spread to the edible kernels before or during shelling.
Shelling them doesn’t get rid of the dirt and debris, and many people prefer to eat their macadamia nuts or nut butters raw. Distributors instead dehydrate the nuts, controlling the temperature to 140 degrees, which should kill the Salmonella and E. coli bacteria that the nuts pick up along the way.
Chemical processes work for products that are being sold as raw and not organic, but can’t be used for certified organic products.