FDA finds tainted jalapenos at supermarket warehouse

Aug 4, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – A grocery chain based in Arizona removed Mexican-grown jalapeno peppers from its produce departments after some of the peppers from one of its distributors tested positive for the Salmonella outbreak strain, as the number of sick linked to the outbreak today climbed to 1,330.

Bashas' supermarkets, based in Chandler, Ariz., said in an Aug 1 statement that the jalapenos were purchased from one of its local distributors. The peppers came from either a distributor in Arizona or one in California, according to an Aug 2 report from the Associated Press (AP).

Samples of Salmonella enterica Saintpaul that match the nationwide outbreak that has hit 43 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada, had previously been found at a McAllen, Tex., produce distributor, a farm in Mexico, and at the home of a patient from Colorado, according to previous reports.

"As a precaution, we have removed all jalapenos from our stores, sanitized our shelves, and restocked our shelves with jalapenos grown in the United States," the company said in its statement. Bashas' operates more than 160 stores in Arizona, California, and New Mexico.

Bashas' spokeswoman Kathy Neid said the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notified the company on Aug 1 about the positive tests on peppers from the company's warehouse, the AP reported.

On Aug 1, the FDA asked retailers and food service operators to remove and securely dispose of all fresh jalapeno and Serrano peppers that are grown, harvested, or packed in Mexico, according to a statement from the agency.

The FDA warned the two groups to avoid inadvertently making the peppers available for salvage or donation; for example, operators should avoid disposing of peppers in unsecured garbage cans. It also suggested several tips for safely handling the possibly contaminated peppers, such as:

  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm running water after handling the peppers.
  • Maintain all records related to receiving and serving the peppers.
  • Avoid cross-contaminating other foods by segregating peppers from other items, storing them away from the food service area, and washing, rinsing, and sanitizing all preparation surfaces or storage shelves that may have come in contact with the peppers or items such as salsa and guacamole that were made with them.

In other developments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today that the number of people infected with the outbreak strain has risen to 1,330. The CDC estimated that the latest illness onset date was Jul 25. A least 257 people were hospitalized. Two deaths were possibly linked to the outbreak; both were older men from Texas who had chronic illnesses.

See also:

Aug 1 CDC update


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