FDA Makes Genetic Match with Hot Pepper Sample Implicated in Salmonella Outbreak

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today that one jalapeno pepper sample is a positive genetic match with the Salmonella Saintpaul strain causing the current Salmonella outbreak.

The positive sample was obtained during an FDA inspection at a produce distribution center in McAllen, Texas. The pepper was grown on a farm in Mexico, however, that does not mean that the pepper was contaminated in Mexico.

The produce distribution center, Agricola Zaragoza, is working with FDA to voluntarily recall jalapeno peppers the company distributed since June 30, 2008.

Since a recall will not immediately remove all potentially contaminated peppers from the food supply, FDA is also asking 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 FDA is continuing to advise that people in high-risk populations, such as elderly persons, infants and people with impaired immune systems, avoid eating raw serrano peppers or food made from raw serrano peppers until further notice..

Discovery of the positive jalapeno pepper sample was the result of several weeks of investigation by FDA scientists and field staff – including examining traceback data from the locations where there were clusters of foodborne illness, scrutinizing distribution records and collecting environmental samples from water, soil, work surfaces and packing boxes throughout the entire chain of production and distribution.

The FDA is continuing to investigate the other parts of the distribution chain to determine if there is any evidence that the contamination occurred on the farm in which the pepper was grown or at some other point in the supply chain before the distribution center in McAllen, Texas.

According to the CDC, 1,251 persons with Salmonella Saintpaul with the same genetic fingerprint have been identified in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Canada since April 2008. For more details, click here.

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