Salmonella Outbreak Could be Linked to Peppers, Fresh Cilantro

Jalapeno peppers and fresh cilantro are now being eyed as potential causes of a multi-state <"">Salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 900 people.   The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) said last month that tomatoes were the most likely source of the outbreak, but since then, hundreds more have gotten sick, even though most stores and restaurants had removed the suspect tomatoes from their shelves.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), since mid-April, Salmonella St. Paul has sickened 943 people in 40 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada.  States reporting illnesses include Alabama (2 persons), Arkansas (10), Arizona (45), California (8), Colorado (12), Connecticut (4), Florida (2), Georgia (24), Idaho (4), Illinois (93), Indiana (14), Iowa (2), Kansas (17), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (1), Maine (1), Maryland (29), Massachusetts (22), Michigan (7), Minnesota (8), Missouri (12), New Hampshire (4), Nevada (11), New Jersey (9), New Mexico (98), New York (28), North Carolina (10), Ohio (7), Oklahoma (23), Oregon (10), Pennsylvania (8), Rhode Island (3), South Carolina (1), Tennessee (8), Texas (356), Utah (2), Virginia (29), Vermont (2), Washington (4), Wisconsin (10), and the District of Columbia (1).

One case of Salmonella has also been reported in Canada.  According to the CDC, the ill person reported travel to the United States and became ill on the day of the return trip to Canada.

The CDC says that 225 people became ill after June 1, indicating that many illnesses occurred after the FDA issued its first tomato warning.  At least 130 people required hospitalization, and the CDC says that Salmonella might have contributed to the death of a Texas cancer patient.

The FDA began widening its Salmonella probe last week, after it was revealed that none of the tomato samples it tested were contaminated with Salmonella.  Meanwhile, the Chicago Department of Health has identified several cases of Salmonella poisoning from people who ate at Mexican restaurants, causing the FDA to suspect that ingredients often found with tomatoes in salsa and guacamole could be behind the outbreak.  In addition to cilantro and jalapenos, the FDA is also testing Serrano peppers.

Imported produce is now being tested at border entry points and will not be distributed to consumers without FDA approval.  The agency also says it’s now trying to figure out whether the produce is being contaminated in a common packing or shipping site, or from a common water source.

For now though, the FDA’s advice to consumers remains unchanged.  The agency is still warning people to avoid raw  red plum, red Roma, or round red tomatoes or any products containing them unless they are known to have come from a geographic area cleared of any connection to the outbreak.  The FDA also says that it is safe to eat grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached

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