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Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts Recalled Over Ecoli Concerns

Posted in E. coli,Our Blog,Outbreaks & Recalls on September 25, 2018

The Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation is voluntarily recalling several of their different products over fears of E. coli contamination. Here’s what you need to know about this Macadamia Nut recall.

The Recall

The recall affects all products produced at the company’s facility in Keau’u between the sixth and twenty-first of September. The recall affects cans, pouches, and bags in various sizes of roasted salted macadamia nuts. It also affects various products containing honey roasted, garlic, and Maui onion-flavored varieties of the nuts.

The recall also includes various sweets that were produced using the nuts, including dark chocolates, milk chocolates, and shortbread cookies.

All of the products were produced and packaged in Hawaii. According to a press release put out by the Hawaii Governor’s Office, the products were sold in retail stores across the state of Hawaii, but aren’t available outside of the state.

Government inspectors visited the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corp. farm in Keau’u on the 5th of September. While there, they tested samples of water taken from the farm’s distribution and irrigation system for various different pathogens. Those samples passed muster, and the farm continued to operate in a business-as-usual fashion for the next two weeks.

On the 21st of September, inspectors returned to the farm and performed the same tests again. This time, however, the results that they saw were somewhat different. The tests indicated that the well water and irrigation system were hosts to a pernicious pathogen that will probably be familiar to any regular reader of Make Food Safe: Escheria coli, or E. coli, which regularly features all around the world as a food poisoning culprit and a bacterial nasty par excellence.

Initially, it wasn’t clear where the positive reading for E. coli bacteria had come from. State inspectors thought that the result may have been a misfiring caused by a malfunction in the disinfection system built into the well and irrigation infrastructure at the farm. Out of an abundance of caution, the Mauna Loa farm immediately took the step of notifying their employees and the public of the advisory that they’d received from the Department of Health. They also took steps to ensure that neither the public nor employees would be drinking from the water system while the investigation continued.

Subsequent tests, unfortunately, indicated that the positive results weren’t a fluke. It appeared that there were indeed E. coli bacteria living in the well and pipes for the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut farm. The Hawaii State Department of Health advised that the business temporarily shut down while corrective measures were taken.

A voluntary recall went out for the different macadamia nut products produced by the corporation in September. On September 21st, the firm closed their doors until such a time as they could clean up their water system to the satisfaction of the Department of Health.

Any customers who have purchased Mauna Loa macadamias that were packaged in the month of September are advised by the company and by the DOH to chuck them out immediately. So far, it doesn’t look like anyone has fallen ill from eating macadamia products contaminated with E. coli.

The source of the contamination in the water system at the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corp. farm isn’t known as of this time. If investigators or the owners have figured it out, they have not yet shared that information with the public. Watch this space for updates and we’ll try to bring you up to speed as soon as new information is available.

Macadamia nuts have grown to a major part of the global nut market. It’s a sector that’s grown by almost 80% over the past decade. Analysts predict that it’ll grow to a market cap of some four billion dollars in the next decade. That’s a lot of nuts. Hawaiian companies like the Manua Loa Macadamia Nut Corp. dominate the sector, making up most of the major players, although Australia also grows a significant amount. Part of the market’s growth can be attributed to rising interest in China, where vegetarian diets are becoming more popular and the long-standing dominance of meat as a protein source is beginning to erode.

What about E. coli, the pathogen that was found in the irrigation system? Most E. coli infections are unpleasant but survivable, provided that you’re an adult with a fully developed and healthy immune system. Sometimes, however, E. coli infections can cause another sort of complication: hemolytic-uremic syndrome, or HUS. The condition is characterized by three particular symptoms: the loss of red blood cells, leading to anemia; a dropping off in the number of platelets in the blood; and the failure of the kidneys, whose essential filtration of bodily fluids grinds to a nearly complete halt.

HUS is extremely serious, and can cause long-term negative side effects or death if not attended to promptly. Often, the treatment includes kidney dialysis and blood transfusions. One out of three people never recover 100% of kidney functions, and the list of potential side effects is grim: paralysis, brain damage, seizures, and blindness have all been described in the literature as fruits of the terrifying condition. As with more mundane diseases caused by E. coli, the very young and very old are at higher risk of serious consequences than are adults with healthy immune systems.

One way to avoid HUS is to make sure that any nuts that you eat, macadamia or otherwise, aren’t currently subject to a recall because they’ve potentially been contaminated with e. Coli bacteria. Luckily, it seems that nobody was unfortunate enough to be poisoned by nuts in this instance.

By: Sean McNulty, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)