The agency is requesting comments, scientific data and other information to use in an assessment of the risk of human salmonellosis associated with the consumption of tree nuts.
The risk assessment seeks to quantify the public health risk associated with eating tree nuts potentially contaminated with salmonella, and to evaluate the impact of interventions to prevent contamination or reduce its contamination levels.
In the US tree nuts have repeatedly been recalled due to salmonella contamination; between 2009 and 2012 pine nuts, pistachios, shelled hazelnuts, walnuts, cashew nuts and macademia nuts have been recalled because of potential contamination.
The exact sequence of events leading to human salmonellosis outbreaks from consumption of tree nuts is not fully understood, said the FDA.
Consumption of whole raw almonds has been associated with outbreaks of human salmonellosis during 2000-2001 and 2003–2004.
Contamination with salmonella has been found in almonds, cashews, pistachios, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts and walnuts, among other tree nuts destined for human consumption.
FDA requested data around a number of areas, including salmonella contamination in different tree nuts sampled at harvest, distribution, manufacturing/processing plant, retail, or anywhere else in the supply chain.
Storage, handling and processing conditions that may affect survival, growth, or inactivation along the farm-to-fork continuum was another area and the impact of these conditions on salmonella concentrations on tree nuts.
The need for a risk assessment is underscored by outbreaks of human salmonellosis linked to tree nuts over the past decade, by product recalls and by salmonella isolation from tree nuts during surveys.
It will inform FDA policy and may be useful for owners and operators of tree nut processing plants and other post-harvest facilities, among other stakeholders.
Currently, Western Mixers Produce & Nut Company is recalling ARO and/or Treasured Harvest Pistachios, because it has the potential to be contaminated with salmonella.
Pistachios were distributed in California, Nevada, Ohio and Utah; through retail stores, mail order and various distributors during 17 October 2012 – 29 April 2013.
The recall is of the pistachio products processed by ARO Pistachio during the 2012 harvest year but Western Mixers and the FDA have not found salmonella in any of the finished products distributed in commerce.