Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Salmonella traced to jalapeños

Federal food officials have matched a bacterial strain found on fresh jalapeños in a Texas distribution plant with the strain responsible for what has become the nation's largest food-borne outbreak in the past decade.
The strain found on the jalapeños, Salmonella Saintpaul, was a genetic match to the strain found in lab tests of many of the 1,251 people who have become sick from salmonella poisoning over the past three months.
It was the first time officials had found the strain on fresh produce. But the discovery still does not tell investigators whether the contamination occurred in Mexico, where the peppers were grown, or at the distribution center in McAllen, Texas. The contamination might have also occurred somewhere in between, Dr. David Acheson of the Food and Drug Administration said Monday in a conference call with reporters.
The agency is warning consumers not to eat fresh jalapeño peppers or foods containing them. The small-scale distribution plant, Agricola Zaragoza, initiated a recall of jalapeños, said Acheson, the associate commissioner of foods for the agency. But it is unlikely that the recall will account for all contaminated produce on the market because the McAllen distribution network was so small.
Dr. Robert Tauxe of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the salmonella outbreak, which caused at least 229 people to be hospitalized, was continuing.

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