The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Wednesday announced its plan to assess the risks of Salmonella contamination associated with tree nuts. The aim of the risk assessment, described in a filing by FDA, is twofold: to determine the current risk to public health associated with eating tree nuts and to evaluate the success of Salmonella interventions currently being used on tree nuts or that could be applied in the future. “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,” said FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in its announcement of the plan. “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.” The results of the assessment will be used to inform public policy on nut safety and to help guide nut producers on best practices, according to FDA. Salmonella contamination in tree nuts has led to a series of outbreaks and recalls over the past dozen years. Just last week, two California companies supplied by ARO Pistachios — also of California — recalled pistachios processed over an 8-month period after Salmonella was detected in samples of the nuts. Raw whole almonds were identified as the source of an international Salmonella Enteriditis outbreak that sickened 157 people in Canada and 11 in the U.S. in 2000-2001. Then, two years later, Salmonella Enteriditis, again linked to whole raw almonds, sickened 29 people in 12 states and one Canadian province. The California company whose product was tied to this outbreak ultimately recalled 13 million pounds of raw almonds. In 2011, Turkish pine nuts were the source of a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Enteriditis that sickened 43 people in 5 states between August and October. “These outbreaks, published reports of Salmonella in tree nuts destined for human consumption, and recalls emphasize the need to assess the risk of salmonellosis associated with tree nuts intended for human consumption, and to evaluate the appropriate risk based preventive controls needed to reduce the risk of human salmonellosis,” says FDA in its filing.  The agency is seeking input from industry, scientists and other stakeholders. It will present the plan during a webinar on Monday, July 22 at 12 p.m. EST. The document describing the assessment will be available for public comment in the Federal Register beginning today.