Salmonella Outbreak May be Linked to Black Pepper Used on Recalled Italian Sausage Products

Health officials are trying to determine if an outbreak of <"">Salmonella poisoning in 39 states is linked to Italian sausage products recalled by Daniele International, Inc. of Rhode Island. A connection has not yet been confirmed, but at least 11 of the victims in the outbreak reported eating salami products from the “Daniele Italian Brand Gourmet Pack.”

Salmonella 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.

Over the weekend, Daniele International recalled 1.24 million pounds of ready-to-eat Italian sausage products because of concerns they were linked to the outbreak. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Salmonella outbreak began in July, and has so far sickened more than 180 people. Out of 133 cases with available information, about a quarter were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

The strain of Salmonella – Montevideo – involved in the outbreak has not been found in any Daniele product, but a sample of product found in commerce was tested and found to contain what appears to be a different strain of Salmonella.

All of the products recalled over the weekend were made with black pepper, which Daniele believes may be the source of the Salmonella contamination. 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.”

The FDA said it is working closely with Daniele and other public health entities to determine if the black pepper is the possible source of contamination. To date there have been no reports of illness associated with black pepper found in other products in the U.S.

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