FDA Extends Food Poisoning Warning to Serrano Peppers from Mexico

On July 30, 2008, the FDA issued another food poisoning warning as a result of the recent salmonella outbreak which has sickened over 1,200 people in the United States, urging consumers to avoid raw serrano peppers from Mexico.

Earlier warnings were issued for raw jalapeno peppers grown and harvested on Mexican farms. Testing has now shown that serrano peppers and irrigation water from a farm in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, were also contaminated with the Salmonella Saintpaul, which is the same strain of bacteria which has been the common genetic fingerprint in the outbreak.

A nationwide jalapeno recall was issued two weeks ago after a sample of jalapeno pepper collected from Agricola Zaragoza’s small produce-distribution plant in McAllen, Texas, was found to be contaminated with Salmonella Saintpaul. The jalapeno peppers were traced back to a Mexican farm, but it was a different farm from the one where investigators indentified contaminated samples of irrigation water and serrano peppers.

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The FDA is still attempting to determine exactly where and how the contaminated peppers got into the U.S. food supply chain. Investigations into the cause of the salmonella outbreak have involved tracing of complex distribution channels, evaluation and inspection of farms in the U.S. and Mexico, and testing product and environmental samples.

The “>Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak has resulted in confirmed cases of food poisoning in 43 different states. Salmonellosis is a bacterial infection of the gastrointestinal tract which results from the consumption of contaminated food. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. The very young, the elderly and those who are immunocompromised are at the greatest risk of more severe forms of the illness, which may become fatal if the bacteria leaves the intestines and enters the bloodstream.

The first warning related to the Salmonella outbreak was issued by the FDA on June 7, when they urged consumers to avoid certain types of raw red tomatoes. Although tomatoes have not been cleared from any involvement in the outbreak, the FDA did issue a follow up statement on July 17 indicating that all tomatoes that are currently in stores are safe.

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