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The California pistachio industry first developed a Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) manual in
2000. Most of the guidance was adapted from the United States Food and Drug
Administrationís Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruit and
Vegetables because that was one of the few available references for food safety guidelines.
Virtually all references were concerned with meat, eggs, and fresh fruit and vegetables. At that
time, there had been no reports of microbial contamination in tree nuts and, due to their low
moisture content, tree nuts were thought to be largely immune from microbial food safety
concerns. However, human illnesses were traced to Salmonella contaminated almonds, first in
Canada in 2001 and again in 2004 in the US. The pistachio industry considered microbial
contamination highly unlikely due to its growing and harvesting practices and the common
practice of roasting. Despite these mitigating factors, salmonella was detected in pistachios in
2009 and, although no illnesses were conclusively linked to pistachios, over 16 million pounds
of pistachios were ultimately recalled. This event has forced a fundamental reassessment of
food safety in the pistachio industry from the farm through the processing of pistachios for sale
as a ready-to-eat food. This will include the revised GAPs contained in this manual prepared by
the California Pistachio Research Board. The CPRB has also prepared a Pistachio Producer
Self Audit to help the pistachio producer identify and mitigate potential food safety risks during
The pistachio industry has historically focused on fungal contaminants, the associated mycotoxins, and chronic food safety risks. These revised GAPs will retain the earlier sections on aflatoxin risk while adding greater emphasis on managing the more acute microbial contamination risks.
Food safety risks in minimally processed dry products like almonds, pistachios, and peanuts are different from high moisture foods. Yet, there are still many similarities among crop production practices in different commodities and, thus, these guidelines incorporate aspects of microbial control found to be practicable and valuable in other crops.
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