Federal food safety officials have lifted last week's blanket salmonella warning on all pistachios, focusing on nuts now being recalled by a single San Joaquin Valley processor.
The full effect of the warnings and recalls on pistachio sales is not yet known. But judging from past outbreaks, sales stand to rebound slowly.
Spinach sales took more than two years to recover after a 2006 E. coli outbreak. Nearly a quarter of regular tomato eaters continued to abstain more than two weeks after the government gave the all-clear in last summer's salmonella scare, one study found. Peanut sales still are down following a salmonella–related recall early this year.
Broad alarms about a particular vegetable or nut tend to stick in shoppers' minds even after the government clears certain processors or regions from blame, said Jim Prevor, a produce–industry analyst based in Florida.
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"It's asking too much of consumers to make these fine distinctions," he said.
Federal and state investigators have yet to link an illness to a salmonella–tainted pistachio. They did, however, find the bacterium in Setton Pistachio's processing plant near Porterville.
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