(May 24) LOST HILLS, Calif. —In response to its May 18 almond recall, Paramount Farms Inc. started its week with a pledge to strengthen food safety protocols.

By the end of the week, the quantity of almonds affected by the recall had more than doubled in size.

On May 22, the company announced an expansion of its recall from 5 million pounds of raw almonds to 13 million pounds. Included in the recall were raw diced almonds, extensions to the “best before” dates and a notice that all of the company’s distributors and retailers could be affected.

The initial May 18 recall was issued after the Food and Drug Administration received seven reports of illnesses that were thought to have been caused by salmonella. The reports came from Alaska, Oregon, Washington and Utah.

Five of the cases were traced to almonds purchased at a Costco Wholesale Inc. store in Oregon.

An additional discovery of a salmonella case in Michigan more than three months ago inspired the May 22 recall, said Chris Tuffli, director of communications at Paramount.

Tuffli said the recalled almonds accounted for about 25% of the company’s crop.

Raw almonds sold under the Kirkland Signature, Sunkist and Trader Joe’s labels were named in the recall, however, an FDA news release said the nuts might be labeled under other brands.
The almond packages included were Trader Joe’s and Sunkist raw almonds with “best before” dates of Aug. 21 through May 20, 2005; Kirkland Signature brand raw almonds with dates of Aug. 21 through March 15, 2005; and Sunkist diced almonds with dates of Aug. 21 through May 20, 2005, according to a Paramount news release.

The company said its distributors and retailers were being contacted to ensure that the almonds were removed from distribution channels.

In addition to the U.S., the almonds might have been distributed to Mexico, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, France, England and Italy.

In the eight salmonella cases that have been identified, the company said affected individuals had recovered.

The FDA, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other state agencies have announced that 18 cases of salmonella could possibly be linked to the recall, according to the FDA release.

Tuffli said May 24 that Paramount Farms planned to go above and beyond in its compliance with good agricultural practices.
As a first step, the company announced it would pasteurize all of its almonds.

“We’re just trying to minimize any risks associated with this product —to do everything we can to ensure that our consumers and our customers have confidence in our product,” Tuffli said.

Almond recalls have been a rare occurrence in the past, said Richard Waycott, president and chief executive officer of the Almond Board of California, Modesto.

Waycott said about 5% of the California almond industry’s volumes are shipped through fresh channels.

“In the 54 years the almond board’s been here, this has only happened once, and it was very, very isolated,” Waycott said. “We’re doing all that we can to consistently make sure that our manufacturing processes are the best possible.”

The California almond industry shipped a record 1.08 billion pounds of the commodity last year, according to the California Agricultural Statistics Service. Waycott said a record 1.1 billion pounds would be shipped in 2004.