Risk of Salmonella in tree nuts to be assessed

Nuts_blogOutbreaks of Salmonella related to tree nuts in the past decade has prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate the public health risk and search for additional preventive measures.

The risk assessment not only will help FDA quantify the health risk posed by Salmonella in tree nuts but it also will look at the effectiveness of current preventive measures. The assessment then will help shape FDA policy in regard to tree nuts and will provide additional insight for producers on how to better prevent Salmonella contamination.

“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,” FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) noted in a statement. “In recent years, contamination with Salmonella has been found in almonds, cashews, pistachios, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts and walnuts, among other types of tree nuts destined for human consumption.”

Raw almonds were implicated in outbreaks in 2000-2001 and in 2003-2004. From 2009-2012, recalls were implemented for pistachios, shelled hazelnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts and walnuts because of Salmonella, according to the Federal Register notice.

Tree nuts often have too little moisture to support the growth of bacteria; however, although bacteria may not flourish, low levels of pathogenic microbes still can cause illness. Experts also believe the high fat content in tree nuts may help shield pathogens from digestive acids in the stomach, allowing the pathogen to make its way into the intestine and cause illness, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

A webinar on the risk assessment is slated for noon on Monday, July 22. The risk assessment is open for comment on the Federal Register until Oct. 16.

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