Following Salmonella Outbreak, FDA Seeks To Make Spices Safer

We’ve been following a series of recalls that involve contaminated pepper manufactured by the Union International Food Company (UIFC). Lawsuits have been filed in that case, including by the family of one woman who died from Salmonellosis, the infection caused by the <"">Salmonella pathogen. Another lawsuit was filed by a man who claimed Salmonella poisoned him after eating at a buffet-style restaurant in Reno, Nevada.

Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking a look at the safety of spices, a highly ubiquitous cooking staple found in restaurants, homes, and food manufacturing facilities, said the Denver Post. The review follows the outbreak of Salmonella poisoning that spanned the nation and led to 16 different recalls that have been traced back to 2001 as a result of the contaminated spices, said the Denver Post.

The Denver Post reported that, in 2008, Americans ingested about 3.5 pounds of spices, an increase from 1966, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA), making the issue of contaminated spices of even deeper concern. The FDA’s associate commissioner for food safety, Jeff Farrar, said that that government is looking for industry to work harder to prevent contamination which, concerning spices, involves using one of three ways in which to remove such contamination, wrote the Denver Post: irradiation; steam heating; or fumigation with the pesticide ethylene oxide.

Most of the spices sold in the United States, with the exception of red chile peppers, garlic, and onions, are actually grown outside of the country, said the Denver Post. The Denver Post noted that the products are grown and harvested by farmers on small parcels of land or are grown wild and harvested from a variety of areas, which can lead to contamination hazards originating from both pollution and issues with water.

“You can import shoes, tables, lamps, and chairs from anywhere in the world and you kind of know what you’re going to get,” said Paul Kurpe of Elite Spice Inc. in Jessup, Maryland, quoted the Denver Post. “But when you import food, you’re importing their habits, traditions, and their standards of food safety,” Kurpe added.

The recall began in March with one spice manufactured by UIFC and was expanded a couple of times, ultimately including a number of spices and over 50 sauces and oils. According to a prior CBS2 report, the California Department of Public Health said the food products were manufactured at a contaminated facility.

Some food manufacturers also had to issue recalls as a result of the contaminated spices. For example, EDS Wrap and Roll Foods LLC was forced to recall over six tons of its chicken egg rolls because the egg rolls contained black pepper spice likely linked to the recalled spice products made by UIFC. Banned Foods said that the recalled EDS Wrap and Roll frozen chicken egg rolls were sold to restaurants in California.

Salmonella, which is usually found in food and water contaminated with animal feces, is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstance, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis, and arthritis. Salmonella poisoning can lead to Reiter’s Syndrome, a difficult-to-treat reactive arthritis characterized by severe joint pain, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination

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