Salmonella Saintpaul Found in Serrano Peppers

Brian M -- July 30th, 2008

The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has confirmed evidence of salmonella contamination in Mexican Serrano peppers through an “intensive investigation” stemming from the Salmonella Saintpaul Outbreak. Domestically grown Serrano peppers, however, have not been tied to any contamination and are still reportedly safe to consume.

The multi-week investigation began after this previously rare strand of Salmonella began being reported throughout the United States. Since April, over 1300 cases have been reported nationwide with 31 cases confirmed in Virginia. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the highest incident of this illness is found in adults 20 to 29 years old.

Raw jalapeño peppers, and products that contain them, are still considered unsafe if grown in Mexico and should be avoided especially by infants, those with a weakened immune system, and the elderly. The current outbreak was connected to jalapeños through a sample obtained from a produce-distribution center in McAllen, Texas. The distribution center was reportedly not, however, the original source of the contamination.

The FDA had originally blamed tomatoes as the source of the outbreak and was possibly mistaken due to the commonality of peppers mixed in with raw tomato products, such as salsa. Investigation of different species of peppers began within the past month.

Consumers are urged by the CDC to follow standard food safety guidelines:

  • Refrigerate within 2 hours or discard cut, peeled, or cooked produce items
  • Avoid purchasing bruised or damaged produce items, and discard any that appear spoiled.
  • Thoroughly wash all produce items under running water.
  • Keep produce items that will be consumed raw separate from raw meats, raw seafood, and raw produce items.
  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot water and soap when switching between types of food products.

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