Dec. 22, 2009 -- The FDA says an Oregon company is recalling 114,350 pounds of shelled hazelnuts that have "the potential" to be contaminated with salmonella, an organism that can cause serious illness, even death.
The nuts, also known as filberts, have been distributed across the U.S. and Canada, according to a news release by Willamette Shelling Inc. of Newberg, Ore., that was posted on the FDA's web site.
Ben Mitchell, president of Willamette Shelling and manager of Willamette Filbert Growers, tells WebMD that Willamette Shelling recalled "a total of 114,350 pounds" of shelled hazelnuts because of possible salmonella contamination. No illnesses have been reported.
Whole Foods, the giant grocery chain based in Austin, Texas, has also announced in a news release on the FDA web site that it is a recalling an unspecified amount of raw organic hazelnuts. Libba Letton, a spokesperson for Whole Foods, says in an email that the hazelnuts being recalled originated with Willamette Shelling and Willamette Filbert Growers. The recall covers hazelnuts sold through its stores in California, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.
Mitchell tells WebMD that Willamette Shelling sold the recalled nuts to four distributing companies, including Willamette Filbert Growers, of which he is manager.
Besides Whole Foods, Mitchell says Willamette's nuts are on the market under the brand names Kunze Farms, Evonuk Oregon Hazelnuts, Canadian Hazelnuts, and Firestone Farms.
Whole Foods says in its news release that the organic raw hazelnuts it is recalling were contaminated with salmonella, but Mitchell tells WebMD there is no evidence of that. He says only one batch at Willamette Filbert had tested positive for salmonella, but those were not sold to Whole Foods.
Recall Is Precautionary
Mitchell tells WebMD that the latest recall is precautionary but necessary to ensure public health.
Whole Foods says in its announcement on the FDA web site that it also is recalling non-organic dry roasted hazelnuts sold in bulk through its stores in California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington and non-organic raw hazelnuts, or filberts, sold through its stores in Oregon and Washington.
"These hazelnuts should not be consumed," Whole Foods warns in its statement. "No illnesses have been reported at this time."
Whole Foods says "the potential for salmonella was discovered during a routine product sampling at the plant where the hazelnuts were shelled." It says salmonella can cause "serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems."
Whole Foods customers who have bought the recalled product since Oct. 12 may return the nuts for a full refund, or contact the company at 512-542-0656, or visit its web site.
Willamette Shelling says it is recalling all hazelnuts processed at its facility from Oct. 12 through Nov. 25, 2009. The company says some of its products were returned to Oregon processors and a Canadian processor, which distributed some of the hazelnuts. It says unshelled hazelnuts are not affected by the current recall.
Willamette says all products subject to recall were packed in 25-pound and 50-pound corrugated boxes with lot code numbers 296091A, 299091A, 300091A, VH3696BO, and 310091A.
Willamette's announcement on the FDA web site urges processors that used its facility in 2009 to return the products to the company in Newberg, Ore.
Evonuk Oregon Hazelnuts of Eugene, Ore., which announced a recall Dec. 18 of 6,712.5 pounds of raw and dry roasted hazelnut kernels, says the product was processed at Willamette.
No action has been taken by the FDA except its posting of press releases from Whole Foods Market, Willamette Shelling and Evonuk. The FDA says it issues such press releases "as a service to consumers, the media, and other interested parties."