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    When Salmonella Met Pistachio
    By Hatice Cullingford | April 12th 2009 10:39 PM | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hatice

    Welcome to my universe.. where there is Peace University. As Fine Scientist, PhD, I write about my interest in various fields, from energy to space...

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    If it happened once, can it happen again? Yes, it can but we would still desire pistachio nuts sans Salmonella. Beyond our poetic pistachio passion, these tasty nuts are good for us. Last year, researchers at Penn State concluded pistachios reduce inflammation and cardiovascular disease risk factors.
    Surprisingly, the reduction in LDL cholesterol was seven times greater than what could be expected from only the fatty acid content of pistachios. Perhaps other bioactive compounds, such as phytosterols and fiber, are responsible for the observed heart-healthiness of pistachios.

    Credit: Koyaanis Qatsi

    Pistachio nuts (see photo), whether raw or roasted or salted, contain 10 minerals, 20 vitamins, fatty acids, amino acids, and other substances. USDA lists their composition - - 100 g of raw and dry roasted (with or without salt added) pistachios contain 1.7 mg and 1.274 mg of vitamin B6 alone, respectively.  When compared with the 1998 RDAs at http://ods.od.nih.gov, pistachios supply amply the B6. Raw nuts are even better with 33% higher value.

    Salmonella Safety - When did you have some pistachio nuts last? "Consumers should not eat pistachios or food products containing them (such as pistachio bakery goods and pistachio ice cream) until they can determine that the products do not contain pistachios recalled by Setton" posted the FDA at http://www.fda.gov/pistachios/ 

    Also, "The FDA intends to examine current pistachio industry practices and issue guidance to the industry that provides additional information on measures to be taken to prevent Salmonella contamination." As the wheels of investigation turn, the CDC is still involved with the Salmonella Typhimurium Outbreak in Peanuts. Pistachio news is different because there are no reported deaths to date.

    Although the Salmonella family has about 2,500 different strains, a mere ten of them might be the cause of  most known salmonella infections at this time. Salmonellosis is here to stay as a foodborne illness. Still what can we do at least to reduce risk?

    Pistachio Science - Pistachio nuts are not legumes like peanuts. They grow on a small, deciduous tree, Pistacia vera, originally of western and central Asia. Cultivation over millenia has given us the cracking nut that you see.

    A mature tree nowadays produces biennially crops of about 50 kg.
    When the fruit ripens late Summer, its hull changes from green to a pink/purple color. If you happen to be nearby, you can hear the shells pop a crack. Not all pistachio fruit cracks open as you might have noticed. This is where we can bring science to produce a pistachio with an extra layer of defense against Salmonella bacteria.
    My message to the growers is to originate in California a new variety of non-splitting pistachios. This way we can buy them raw for higher food value without fear. It is not difficult to roast or crack/split at home.

    Our thanks are obvious to the western and central Asian growers for their cultivation that has worked well for us so far. We now need a safer pistachio nut that is uniquely tailored for our ways of handling. Science should come into play. Salmonella-free pistachio is a heart-healthy gift to give to future generations.