Jalapenos cited in search for Salmonella source

by Stephanie Bloyd
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WASHINGTON — The search for the source of more than 1,000 cases of Salmonella was widened yesterday as officials said some of the outbreaks appeared to be caused by jalapeño peppers.

"The accumulated data from all investigations indicate that jalapeño peppers caused some illnesses but that they do not explain all illnesses," the Centers for Disease Control (C.D.C.) said. "Raw tomatoes, fresh serrano peppers, and fresh cilantro also remain under investigation. Investigators from many agencies are collaborating to track the source of the implicated peppers and other produce items."

Since April, 1,017 people in 41 states and Canada have been diagnosed with Salmonella Saintpaul infections. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) advised people with a heightened risk of severe infection, including infants, elderly people, and those with impaired immune systems, not to eat raw jalapeño peppers or raw serrano peppers. Also, only raw tomatoes on the F.D.A. safe list should be eaten, the agency said.

Tomatoes and raw jalapeño peppers are the main ingredients in salsa. The C.D.C. said clusters of Salmonella have been identified in several states among people who dined in restaurants. Three larger clusters were "intensively investigated," by the agency. In one cluster, it said "illnesses were linked to consumption of an item containing fresh tomatoes and fresh jalapeño peppers. In the other two, illnesses were linked to an item containing fresh jalapeño peppers and no other of the suspect items."

An estimated $100 million in losses to the food industry has industry groups, such as the Western Growers Association, calling for an investigation of the government Inquiry. In a statement, the United Fresh Produce Association said:

"We are all clearly frustrated, but it is good that C.D.C. and F.D.A. have narrowed the investigation, and we urge them to complete the investigation on jalapeño peppers quickly and thoroughly so that either a source for the outbreak can be found or jalapeño peppers can be cleared."

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