FDA Finds Serrano Peppers, Water Contaminated With Salmonella at Mexican Farm

July 31, 2008

In the latest development in the investigation of a major Salmonella outbreak, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration now has issued a warning against eating raw serrano peppers from Mexico.

A few days ago, the agency issued a similar warning against eating jalapeño peppers grown, harvested or packed in Mexico.

But Wednesday’s warning came after the FDA confirmed that both serranos and irrigation water at a farm near Nuevo Leon, Mexico, contained Salmonella Saintpaul “with the same genetic fingerprint as the strain of bacteria that is causing the current outbreak in the U.S.”

That outbreak has hit Texas harder than any other state. While just over 1,300 people have become sick from the Salmonella strain nationally since mid-April, state and federal health officials now say more than a third – 502 of them – were in Texas. Of those, at least 12 were in Fort Bend County and 76 were in Houston or Harris County.

As a result of the discovery on the Mexican farm, “until further notice, the FDA is advising consumers to avoid raw serrano peppers from Mexico, in addition to raw jalapeño peppers from Mexico, and any foods that contain them,” the FDA said on Wednesday.

Ironically, government health officials originally warned consumers against eating Roma-style and other tomatoes sold in grocery stores, and those stores pulled a huge amount of produce from their shelves.

Government inspectors never found a tomato containing the Saintpaul strain of Salmonella.

However, the Texas Department of State Health Services released a statement recently saying the Saintpaul strain “has been detected in samples of fresh jalapenos,” taken from a McAllen facility operated by Agricola Zaragoza.

That company imported the peppers from Mexico, and the state health department said all the company’s jalapenos shipped since June 30 have been recalled and are to be removed from store shelves.

The FDA said contaiminated peppers from the McAllen distribution center “originated from a different farm in Mexico” than the farm with the contaminated serranos and water.

And, as FortBendNow reported last week, the Texas Health Department also discovered another strain of Salmonella, called “Group C1,” in jalapeños, serranos and avocados distributed by Grande Produce, of Hidalgo.

“At present, information indicates that jalapeño peppers and serrano peppers grown, harvested, or packed in Mexico are the cause of some clusters and are major food vehicles for the outbreak,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said in a statement. “Although tomatoes currently on the market are safe, raw tomatoes consumed early in the outbreak are still under investigation.”

“The FDA is still analyzing many of the samples taken at various farms in Mexico. If laboratory results warrant, the FDA will provide consumers with additional cautions or warnings necessary to protect their health,” the agency said.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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