July 28, 2008

Mexican Peppers - Salmonella Saintpaul Outbreak

By Janice Wade-Miller, Pinellas County Extension Educator

At Pinellas County Extension, the Family and Consumer Sciences Program Area wants you to be aware of all potential food hazards so that you can make knowledgeable decisions about the food you buy for your family. In an effort to keep you informed, we are releasing the following FDA tomato update. Please follow the FDA’s instructions so that you are not affected by this foodborne illness.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is updating its warning to consumers nationwide concerning the outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul.

The FDA's advice to avoid raw jalapeno peppers, and foods that contain them, now applies only to peppers grown, harvested or packed in Mexico.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advising consumers that jalapeno and serrano peppers grown in the United States are not connected with the current Salmonella St. Paul outbreak and consumers may feel free to eat them without concern of contamination.

In addition to domestically grown raw jalapeno peppers, commercially canned, pickled and cooked jalapeno peppers from any and all geographic locations also are not connected with the current Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak.

FDA is working with state regulatory agencies and food industry groups representing restaurants, grocery stores, and wholesalers to ensure that this new advisory is clearly understood by everyone. The FDA will continue to refine its consumer guidance as the agency's investigation continues.

This new information is based on evidence gathered by the intensive investigation that has been ongoing for several weeks to find the source of the contamination which has led to the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak. The current traceback investigation and harvesting dates, matched with the dates that people became ill, have combined to indicate that the contaminated peppers originated in Mexico.

Additional traceback information obtained this week indicates that the Agricola Zaragoza plant in McAllen, Texas - from where the positive jalapeno pepper sample was taken - have determined that the Texas plant was not the original source of the contamination.

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 from Mexico or food made from raw Serrano peppers from Mexico until further notice.

If you have any questions or concerns on this issue, please call us at 582-2100 and we will do our best to help you.

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