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SPECIAL EDITION III —
Major Retailer. California Health Official and FDA Weigh In On Pistachio Recall

Is FDA Guarding Against Ulterior Motives In Accepting Test Results From Unrelated Private Companies?

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, April 9, 2009

One issue raised by the actions of FDA in the Setton Farm pistachio recall is the appropriateness of FDA’s reliance on tests done by third parties.

If a company turns over its own test results, that is unobjectionable and, of course, FDA and USDA and state authorities do their own tests.

In this case, though, it was a private company, Georgia Nut Company in Illinois, that did the tests which indicated there were four types of salmonella on Setton Farms pistachios.

Yet the use of private company testing for this purpose is very problematic.

What steps did the FDA take to ensure this is not one company trying to harm another?

We have no reason to believe there is such a problem in this case, but it is easy to see one arising. Competitors, a desire to buy another company’s facilities, love triangles, affairs, personal vendettas, industrial sabotage… any number of things could lead a company to drop a pipette with a pathogen on some product.

The FDA probably should treat third-party private reports as nothing more than an invitation to investigate. Certainly the FDA needs clear procedures established on how it will safeguard companies against malicious reports.

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