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Breakthrough Reported in Salmonella Investigation

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The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has identified Salmonella Saintpaul on Mexican-grown serrano peppers, and has also traced the bacteria to contaminated irrigation water on a farm in Mexico. Laboratory testing by the FDA confirms that both a serrano sample and a sample of irrigation water collected by agency investigators on a farm in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico—the farm’s business address is in Nuevo Leon, Mexico—contain Salmonella Saintpaul with the same genetic fingerprint as the bacterial strain causing the current outbreak in North America. This particular Salmonella Saintpaul fingerprint is normally seen in only 25 cases a year, said Ian Williams, chief of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Outbreak Net.

Spokesman Michael Herndon said that no one should eat raw serrano peppers from Mexico. Cooked or pickled peppers from cans or jars are not included in the warning. The FDA is also advising consumers to also avoid raw jalapeño peppers from Mexico, and any foods that contain them.

Last week, the FDA reported that only Mexican-grown raw jalapeño and serrano peppers were linked to the salmonella outbreak; however, Mexican officials called those findings “premature.” Initially, tomatoes seemed the outbreak’s likeliest source prompting the FDA to advise consumers to avoid certain raw tomatoes on June 7, which caused grocery chains and some restaurants nationwide to stop offering them. The FDA subsequently lifted the tomato ban, determining that tomatoes currently in fields and stores are safe.

The Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak that began in April, sickened over 1,200, and hospitalized over 240 is now being linked to irrigation water and serrano peppers at the Nuevo Leon farm in Mexico. The outbreak has affected people in 43 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada and was initially attributed to a variety of raw tomatoes. Meanwhile, FDA previously announced it discovered salmonella on a jalapeño pepper imported from Mexico at the Agricola Zarigosa produce distribution center in McAllen, Texas. Serranos are a type of chili pepper similar to jalapeños, but hotter.

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