Tainted jalapeno found in Salmonella investigation

by FoodBusinessNews.net Staff
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WASHINGTON — In the hunt for the source of the Salmonella outbreak, the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) has been unable to find a sample of contaminated produce since the investigation began in April — until yesterday. On July 21, the F.D.A. announced it found one jalapeno pepper sample with a positive genetic match to the Salmonella Saintpaul responsible for the nationwide rash of illnesses.

About 1,251 people in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Canada, have fallen ill from the outbreak since April 2008. On July 17, the F.D.A. officially cleared tomato varieties from the list of suspects in the investigation.

The positive sample was obtained during an inspection at a produce distribution center in McAllen, Texas, the F.D.A. said. Though the pepper was grown on a Mexican farm, officials stressed it does not necessarily mean the pepper was contaminated south of the border.

The produce distribution center, Agricola Zaragoza, announced a voluntarily recall of jalapeno peppers it distributed in Georgia and Texas since June 30. Since the recall may not immediately remove contaminated peppers from the food supply, the F.D.A. advised consumers to avoid eating raw jalapeno peppers or foods made from raw jalapeno peppers until further notice in order to prevent additional cases of illness. This recommendation does not include cooked or pickled jalapeno peppers, the agency stressed.

The F.D.A. said it will continue to investigate other areas of the distribution chain to determine whether the pepper was contaminated on the farm, or at some other point in the supply chain before reaching the distribution center in McAllen.

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