U.S. Jalapenos Safe To Eat, FDA Now Says, But Not Those Grown In Mexico

July 29, 2008

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration now says it’s safe to eat jalapeno and serrano peppers – as long as they were grown in the United States.

However, the agency said it “continues to advise consumers to avoid raw jalapeno peppers – and the food that contains them – if they have been grown, harvested or packed in Mexico.”

The FDA also said no commercially canned, pickled or cooked jalapeno peppers – no matter where they’re from – are believed to be associated with a major outbreak of the Saintpaul Salmonella strain.

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

The 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 state department said the discovery of Saintpaul Salmonella in Acricola Zaragoza’s peppers marks the first confirmed discovery of the strain since the outbreak began in April.

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

A month ago, federal and state health regulators were concentrating on tomatoes, and warned consumers against eating Roma-style and “large, round” tomatoes offered in grocery stores. After weeks of investigation by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control, the FDA lifted its warning and declared grocery-store tomatoes safe to eat.

But the twists and turns in the Salmonella outbreak and investigation likely have left consumers confused, and the state and federal agencies did little to clear up that confusion.

Just because Salmonella Saintpaul was discovered in the McAllen distributor’s produce “does not mean the jalapenos are to blame for all the illnesses,” the Texas Health Department said in a statement.

The FDA said “additional traceback and traceforward information” obtained in the past few days has led investigators to conclude that the Agricola Zarigoza peppers were “not the original source of the contamination” that caused the national outbreak.

Meanwhile, state health officials offered new data that shows more than 1,250 people have been sickened since April by Saintpaul Salmonella.

More than a third of those – 496 cases – occurred in Texas. And the number of confirmed cases in Fort Bend County increased from eight to 12. Adjacent Harris County has had 76 confirmed cases, the health department said.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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