Final salmonella-in-pepper-on-salami report; loyalty cards helped with traceback

From July 2009 until April 2010, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control identified 272 cases of Salmonella Montevideo in people from 44 states and the District of Columbia.

The outbreak strain was identified in salami products, one company A facility environmental sample, and sealed containers of black and red pepper used to produce company A salami products.

This outbreak highlights the importance of preventing post-processing contamination of ready-to-eat products from raw ingredients such as spices.

This nationwide outbreak of Salmonella Montevideo infections was associated with salami products containing contaminated imported black and red pepper. This outbreak highlights the importance of preventing product contamination between its production and its use and the potential for spices, such as pepper, to contaminate ready-to-eat products.

Eight spice-associated Salmonella outbreaks occurred during 1973–2009, accounting for 1,656 human illnesses. In September 2008, an outbreak of Salmonella Rissen infections was associated with ground white pepper. An increasing number of dried spice recalls have occurred over the past several years, with only two during the 1990s and 16 during 2000—2004.

Membership cards helped provide important brand-specific information in this investigation. During hypothesis generation, it was learned that many patients reported shopping at different locations of a national warehouse chain. This prompted WADOH to collect data on items purchased by patients based on membership card records. Information gathered from these cards, with patient permission, helped determine the brand name and purchase dates of implicated products. Based on this information, USDA-FSIS traced back lots of ingredients, which helped FDA identify lots of black and red pepper used to produce the contaminated salami products. As this investigation demonstrates, membership and shopper cards can provide critical information to quickly identify potentially contaminated foods and should be considered for use in future foodborne disease outbreak investigations.

The complete report is available at: