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Nut Recall Signaling
Tough Stance on Safety

As the nation’s second-largest processor of pistachios agreed Monday to recall its entire 2008 crop despite no confirmed illnesses, the Obama administration issued a tough warning to all food processors that sloppy practices would no longer be tolerated.

With the warning, the administration signaled that it was substantially changing the way the government oversees food safety. Food-handling practices that in the past would have resulted in mild warnings may now lead to wide-ranging and expensive recalls, even before anyone becomes ill from contaminated food.

“The food industry needs to be on notice that FDA is going to be much more proactive and move things far faster,” said David Acheson, associate commissioner for foods at the Food and Drug Administration. “We’re going to try to stop people from getting sick in the first place, as opposed to waiting until we have illness and death before we take action.”

Last week, the agency told consumers to avoid eating pistachios — the first time it has issued such a blanket warning in the absence of reports that anyone had been sickened.

And in recent days, when tests of the processing plant of Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella, based in Terra Bella, Calif., found salmonella contamination and an inspection revealed troubling gaps in sanitary measures, agency officials urged the company to recall its entire 2008 crop.

The recall announced on Monday includes all of Setton’s roasted in-shell and shelled pistachios harvested in 2008, as well as any raw shelled pistachios that were not roasted before retail sale.

That most likely means that hundreds of pistachio-containing food products, like trail mix and nutty chocolate bars, will be recalled in the coming weeks.

New Fishing Limits
Reflect Tough Economy

The new head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued restrictions Monday on New England fishermen that are expected to cut the region’s fishing revenue by $17.4 million.

The decision was a compromise that took into account the ongoing economic crisis. NOAA had first proposed rules that would have meant a 20 percent cut in revenue, but lowered it to a 9 percent reduction.

The hope, said new NOAA chief Jane Lubchenco, was to ease the financial burden on fishermen while allowing fishery officials to focus on restructuring by next year the way many fishermen work.

“[It’s] a good compromise and she listened to fishermen to do something a little less Draconian,” said Jim Odlin, a member of the New England Fishery Management Council who fished for 25 years.

“Still, it’s a pretty severe cut,” he said.

Environmentalists applauded the new rules, which will include a reduction in the number of days fishermen can fish by around 18 percent, and place tighter restrictions on keeping Southern New England winter flounder, and Northern windowpane flounder and ocean pout. Fishermen in southern New England will be particularly affected because they will lose two allocated fishing days for every day they fish in an expanded area below Cape Cod.

But there was also good news for the fishing industry: NOAA fisheries will allow fishermen to go after healthy haddock populations more aggressively, lengthening the haddock fishing season from three to nine months in one area and allowing fishermen to catch smaller fish. The federal government also decided not to expand certain restrictions in the Gulf of Maine. Still, Lubchenco said the cuts would be painful, and NOAA officials are now examining their budget for ways to help fishermen financially.