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Discovery of Tainted Jalapeno Sheds Light on Salmonella Mystery

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The FDA has found a fresh jalapeno pepper tainted with Salmonella Saintpaul at a plant in Texas, prompting a new warning and a recall. Yesterday, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a recall of jalapeno peppers distributed by Agricola Zaragoza plant in Texas, the facility were the tainted pepper was discovered. The jalapeno pepper recall includes all those shipped from the plant since June 30. The jalapeno peppers being recalled were shipped in 35lb. plastic crates and in 50lb. bags with no brand name or label.

The FDA said no other produce currently in the plant has tested positive for salmonella, and was continuing to probe where the produce came from and went. The FDA has also not yet determined if the pepper became tainted at the plant, on the farm or somewhere in between. Officials from the FDA and CDC are on site in Mexico looking at farms and are studying the distribution center to see if the peppers could have been tainted during the handling and sorting process.

Meanwhile, the FDA has warned consumers to avoid fresh jalapenos or any products made from them.

This Salmonella outbreak is the largest ever to be tied to fresh produce, but finding the source has been elusive. In June, the FDA warned consumers to avoid eating certain 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. But even after the suspect tomatoes were removed from stores and restaurants, people continued to get sick. That sent the FDA on a search for other suspects, and jalapeno peppers were high on the list.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Salmonella Saintpaul has sickened 1,251 people since April. Illnesses have been reported in Alabama (2 persons), Arkansas (19), Arizona (54), California (9), Colorado (16), Connecticut (5), Florida (3), Georgia (35), Idaho (6), Illinois (115), Indiana (18), Iowa (2), Kansas (19), Kentucky (2), Louisiana (1), Maine (1), Maryland (36), Massachusetts (28), Michigan (25), Minnesota (22), Mississippi (2), Missouri (20), Montana (1), New Hampshire (5), Nevada (12), New Jersey (12), New Mexico (102), New York (38), North Carolina (23), Ohio (10), Oklahoma (25), Oregon (10), Pennsylvania (12), Rhode Island (3), South Carolina (2), Tennessee (9), Texas (475), Utah (2), Virginia (31), Vermont (2), Washington (17), West Virginia (1), Wisconsin (13), and the District of Columbia (1).

Canada has also reported five illnesses, four of which occurred when the victims were traveling in the U.S. One Canadian illness remains under investigation. At least 229 people have been hospitalized, and Salmonella Saintpaul has been implicated in the deaths of two people.

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