By MITCH LIES

Capital Press

SALEM -- Hazelnuts, one of the few bright spots in Oregon agriculture in 2009, are now taking their lumps.

Government inspectors found salmonella in a hazelnut shelling operation in Newberg, Ore., triggering a recall last week of 110,000 pounds of shelled hazelnuts.

Food and Drug Administration inspectors found the salmonella during stepped up testing the agency initiated this year on nut production facilities. The federal inspectors initially found it on non-food surfaces. The Oregon Department of Agriculture under further testing found salmonella on nuts.

Willamette Shelling voluntarily initiated the recall on Dec. 17 as a precaution.

No illnesses have been reported. To the knowledge of company officials, no infected hazelnuts left the plant.

Salmonella has not been found in further tests, said Polly Owens, manager of the Hazelnut Industry Office.

"It looks like we have a good handle on the situation," Owens said. "There is not a lot of product out there that is being recalled, and we're thankful nobody got sick."

Willamette Shelling shut down operations and embargoed all hazelnuts on site at the Newberg plant after the FDA first discovered salmonella at the plant in November.

Only about 70,000 pounds of hazelnuts under suspicion are in distribution networks, according to Ben Mitchell, manager of Willamette Filbert Growers, which has nuts involved in the recall.

Kunze Farms of Dayton, Evonuk Oregon Hazelnuts of Eugene, Harry and David Country Village Store in Medford and Whole Foods Market also recalled hazelnuts last week that were shelled by Willamette Shelling.

Another 533,000 pounds remains embargoed either at Willamette Shelling or at other hazelnut operations in Oregon, Mitchell said.

The hazelnuts under suspicion were processed at the plant between Oct. 12 and Nov. 25.

Oregon growers produced an estimated 83.5 million pounds of hazelnuts this year, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Staff writer Mitch Lies is based in Salem. E-mail: mlies@capitalpress.com.

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