Salmonella found in peppers, but no outbreak link so far

Jul 18, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – Texas and North Carolina officials yesterday announced recalls of avocadoes and jalapeno and Serrano peppers after some samples tested positive for Salmonella. But Texas officials said they did not find the Salmonella strain involved in the current nationwide outbreak, while the strain in the North Carolina produce was not yet known.

Jalapeno and Serrano peppers are the top suspects in the ongoing nationwide outbreak linked to the relatively rare Salmonella enterica Saintpaul strain, which has sickened 1,220 people.

The Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) said in a press release yesterday that Grande Produce, an Hidalgo-based produce importer and distributor, was voluntarily recalling avocadoes, Serrano peppers, and jalapeno peppers after North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) lab found Salmonella in the company's products.

Texas officials said jalapenos and Serrano peppers that tested positive in their labs for Salmonella did not contain S Saintpaul. The TDSHS said their tests revealed Salmonella group C1, not Salmonella group B, the group that includes the Saintpaul strain.

The TSDHS said it has tested about 70 food products for Salmonella in recent weeks, and the only two that tested positive were jalapeno and Serrano peppers from Grande Produce.

William Ayres, a spokesman for the TSDHS, told CIDRAP News that Texas has not received any reports of illnesses linked to Salmonella group C.

Texas officials, along with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), are overseeing the recall and are investigating where the avocadoes and peppers were shipped and where and how the produce was contaminated. The agencies are telling Grande Produce's customers to pull the products from store shelves.

Meanwhile, North Carolina officials asked a Charlotte food distributor to recall jalapeno peppers and Hass avocadoes it received from an unnamed Texas food supplier because of possible Salmonella contamination after two samples tested positive for the pathogen, the NCDHHS said in a press release yesterday.

Authorities were determining how many of North Carolina's food distributors, restaurants, grocery stores, and other merchants received the produce.

"We are working quickly and carefully with our state, local, and federal partners in an attempt to solve this case," said Steve Troxler, North Carolina's agriculture commissioner, in the statement.

Leah Devlin, North Carolina's public health director, said there was no indication that the Salmonella strain is the one linked to the national outbreak. The state's laboratory and the CDC are conducting additional tests to determine if the pathogen found in the two produce samples matches the outbreak strain, the NCDHHS said.

See also:

Jul 17 North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services press release

Jul 17 Texas Department of State Health Services press release

Jul 17 CIDRAP News story "FDA ends warning on tomatoes, focuses on peppers"

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