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In a follow up toMake Mine Without Tomatoes the U.S. Food and Drug Administration lifted its warning on tomatoes not because it found the source of the outbreak, but because the ones that were contaminated, would have been discarded by this time due to spoilage.

Now comes yet another warning . . .

Jalapeño Pepper Tests Positive for Salmonella!

Food and safety officials stated today that a fresh jalapeño grown in Mexico and processed in Texas tested positive for the strain of Salmonella, which is responsible for making 1,200 people sick.

The associate commissioner of the FDA, David Acheson, said there has been a “significant break in the salmonella investigation,” but he also stressed the fact that the investigation is still ongoing.

As a result of this latest development, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is asking people nationwide to avoid eating fresh jalapeño and serrano peppers. The warning also includes eating any food that has been prepared with fresh jalapeño peppers as well.

The origin of the pepper that tested positive was from a produce distribution center called Agricola Zaragosa, in McAllen Texas. Although other samples have tested negative, the distribution center has recalled all peppers that passed through its plant since the outbreak.

Dr. Robert Tauxe of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited these figures on the outbreak thus far:

The outbreak of the Salmonella strain, known as Salmonella stapul has made 1,251 people sick, caused another 229 to be hospitalized and has led to the death of two elderly men, who died from unrelated causes while being infected.

To determine if the small facility in McAllen, Texas is responsible for the entire outbreak, the FDA has sent inspectors to Mexico.

The FDA’s action has prompted Mexico to conduct an investigation of its own. Marco Antonio Sifuentes, spokesman for the Mexican agriculture ministry, asserts that the strain of bacteria that has sickened over 1,200 people in the United States has never materialized in Mexico.

A small, green, husked tomato-like fruit known as tomatillos are also shipped from the Produce Distribution Center in McAllen, Texas.

The facility in Texas was investigated after the FDA traced a cluster of illnesses to that geographical area.

“We are working back from a population of patients who got sick in a single geographic area that ate in a single place,” Acheson said. “We asked where peppers linked to that cluster came from.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration lifted the warning on tomatoes without ever finding the source of the outbreak, and now it’s released a similar warning on jalapeño and serrano peppers.

The public’s confidence in the FDA is waning.

Parents are outraged by this latest turn of events. Concerned parents are prohibiting their children from eating tomatoes and given the FDA’s inability to properly track the source of an outbreak, wonder if they should bar their children from eating other produce as well.

No one wants their child to be part of the statistics when a new produce is found with the Salmonella stapul strain.

U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa, who chairs the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, issued the following statement:

“This is far too long for an outbreak to spread unresolved and it is unacceptable for public health, farmers and the food produce industry.”

According to Dr. Tauxe, 14 more case has been reported since last Friday, July 18.

No one knows for sure where the breakdown has occurred in the production cycle that led to the jalapeño pepper being infected with the Salmonella strain and according to Dr. Tauxe, the investigation is still ongoing.

As consumers of Tomatoes, Peppers, and other forms of produce, the public should be made aware of this fact:

Abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and fever are all common symptoms of Salmonella poisoning . . . 40,000 cases and 400 deaths are reported in the United States each year.

Err on the side of caution and forgo jalapeño peppers and tomatoes for now, until the FDA does its job properly and not only find the source of the current outbreak, but implement a system to track and prevent other outbreaks from reaching epidemic proportions.

Bradley Booth/Freelance Commercial Writer/Author

 

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