Black Pepper Culprit in Sausage Salmonella Outbreak

Danielle International, the company behind a massive recall of Italian sausage products linked to a multistate <"">Salmonella outbreak, says it has now confirmed that black pepper used on the products is the source of the illnesses.

Over the weekend, Daniele International recalled 1.24 million pounds of ready-to-eat Italian sausage products because of concerns they had some association with the outbreak. Yesterday we reported that DNA fingerprinting conducted by the University of Iowa’s Hygienic Laboratory confirmed that Salmonella from a sample of leftover Daniele International sausage found in one victim’s home matched the same strain as the national outbreak. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said 13 ill persons have been identified who purchased the same type of sliced salami variety pack manufactured by Daniele at different grocery store locations before becoming ill.

According to the CDC, this Salmonella outbreak began in July, and has so far sickened more than 180 people in 40 states. Out of 134 cases with available information 37 have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

All of the products recalled over the weekend were coated with black pepper, and early on, Daniele maintained that the ingredient was the source of the contamination.

According to a statement posted on its Web site yesterday, tests of the black pepper it used have confirmed the presence of Salmonella. According to the company, this finding indicates that Salmonella contamination of its products occurred after processing. Daniele did not identify the company that produced the pepper, but said it has changed suppliers.

Salmonella has in the past been found in black pepper, white pepper, red pepper, and paprika. It’s also been found in other dry spices. In 2006, a review led by CDC and Food & Drug Administration (FDA) researchers found that although concentrations of Salmonella in pepper and other spices appeared to be low, “the potential for contaminated spices to cause widespread outbreaks … as well as the widespread use of spices in ready-to-eat foods … highlight the need to maintain rigorous standards in spice production, distribution, and sales.”

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