Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Pistachio Recall: Salmonella scare

The FDA and the California Department of Public Health are advising consumers to avoid pistachio products as they investigate Salmonella contamination in pistachio products sold by the California company Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella, Inc.

The company has issued a nationwide voluntary recall today on nuts shipped on or after Sept 1 2008, about 2 million pounds of pistachios- a small fraction of the 55 million pounds of pistachios the company processed last year.

California is the second-largest producer of pistachios in the world.

The FDA states that the pistachios were used as ingredients in many products and, as a result, many products may be recalled as the investigation continues.

Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and people with weakened immune systems. So far, according to the FDA, several illnesses have been reported by consumers that may be associated with the pistachios but it's not yet known whether any of the Salmonella strains found in the pistachio products are linked to an outbreak.

Setton has recalled their bulk roasted shelled pistachios and roasted unshelled pistachios sold to wholesale customers, as well as its Setton Farms brand roasted salted shelled pistachios (sold in 9-ounce bags with a "Best Before" date between Jan. 6, 2010 and Jan. 19, 2010) distributed in seven Southeastern states. Grocery chain Kroger Co recalled its Private Selection shelled pistachios on Friday due to potential salmonella contamination and Kraft Foods recalled its Back To Nature Trail Mix after it was found to be contaminated with Salmonella.

The FDA site will soon provide a list of recalled products... stay tuned.

Monday, 23 March 2009

The art of tortilla making in Guatemala

I loved the 'hand-clapping' sound of tortilla-making that is very prevalent in Guatemala. I was even lucky enough to get to try to make a tortilla and, I can tell you, it is not as easy as the Guatemalan women make it out to look- the dough kept on getting stuck to my hands!

To make a tortilla, "nixtamalized corn" is used to make the dough (masa). Nixtamlized corn involved dissolving the hardened corn kernels in boiling water in which an alkali has been dissolved (in Guatemala, the alkali used is calcium hydroxide).
The masa is cooked on a comal (a traditional stove made with a heavy steel or iron sheet used as the cooking surface) that is heated with firewood, giving the tortillas a slightly smoky flavour.