Fresh jalapeno peppers from US may contain salmonella: Canada

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is warning the public not to consume the jalapeno peppers described below because they may be contaminated with salmonella.

The affected fresh jalapeno peppers, imported from the U.S., were sold as follows:

1. Unlabelled from bulk at Safeway stores and various independent grocery stores in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Yukon, between December 3 and 20, 2011, inclusively.

2. Unlabelled from bulk or in 4.5 kg Cal Fresco brand cases at Loblaws banners (Extra Foods, No Frills, Real Canadian Wholesale Club, Shop Easy, SuperValu, Real Canadian Superstore, Lucky Dollar and Your Independent Grocer) in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, between December 3 and 20, 2011, inclusively.

Consumers who have purchased bulk, unlabelled jalapeno peppers are advised to check with their place of purchase to determine if they have the affected product.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these peppers.

Salmonella Saintpaul found in Colorado human and her jalapeno

The outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul, which has sickened 1,304 in 43 states and Canada, has revealed any number of instant experts, armchair quarterbacks and food safety posers advancing their own agendas.

Tonight, the Laboratory Services Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has confirmed that a jalapeno pepper provided by an ill individual from Montezuma County has tested positive with the same DNA pattern of Salmonella Saintpaul-the strain that has caused a large, multistate outbreak of salmonella.

The pepper was purchased at a local Wal-Mart, likely on June 24, and the individual became ill on July 4. This is the first pepper linked directly to an ill person in this outbreak.

The state health department is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine the origin of the pepper.

Team Diarrhea cracks the Salmonella case

Amy’s originally from Minnesota. A French professor from Minnesota. That’s part of our shared humor.

So last December during break, we drove to Minnesota, with the dogs, and hung out with some of her extended family.

We also hung out with Team Diarrhea.

That would be the crack investigative unit at the Minnesota Dept of Heath, getting much praise in the past few days over their handling of the Salmonella in whatever-it-is outbreak.

“In less than two weeks, Minnesota Department of Health investigators traced the source of a mysterious salmonella outbreak that had stumped federal health officials for two months and sickened more than 1,200 people in 43 states and Canada.

The culprit: jalapeno peppers.

Federal officials had focused on tomatoes as the source of the salmonella, causing restaurants and stores to pull tomatoes and severely hurting tomato farmers in suspect areas.

While tomatoes haven’t been entirely cleared by federal authorities, attention has now turned to the peppers in what federal officials said was a major break in the case. The story says that a gee-whiz state lab, investigators dubbed "Team Diarrhea" and a unique approach to sleuthing illness contributed to the breakthrough.”

I gave them some Don’t Eat Poop shirts back in December, Hedberg took us to lunch, I came away  thinking, what a great model to do foodborne illness investigations, and to get students doing cool stuff. Guess the rest of the country is now appreciating the insights of Northerners.

Safest food in the world alert: Texas edition

Todd Staples, the Agriculture Commissioner for the great state of Texas, has decided to alienate 488 Texas voters suffering from Salmonella Saintpaul inspired diarrhea that,

“Texans can be assured that we continue to enjoy the safest food supply in the world.”

Staples also finds it necessary to remind Texans that,

“Consumers should always properly wash and prepare all food items, as this is a basic part of family food safety.”

Except this outbreak, from all available evidence, is not a consumer issue, unless people in 43 states are all mishandling produce in the same manner.

Salmonella Saintpaul found in jalapenos at Texas packing shed

Dr. David Acheson, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s associate commissioner for foods, announced at a mid-afternoon teleconference Monday that a sample of jalapenos tainted with Salmonella Saintpaul was found at a packing plant in Texas and came from a farm in Mexico.

"While this one sample doesn’t give us the whole story, this genetic match is a very important break in the case. This will ultimately, hopefully, allow us to pinpoint the source of the contamination, which has caused the outbreak."

Acheson was quick to note that, while the contaminated pepper was grown on a farm in Mexico, "that does not mean that the pepper was contaminated in Mexico."

Acheson identified the firm as Agricola Zaragoza Inc., of Mcallen, Texas, which, according to its company’s online profile, is a small wholesale distributor of fruits and vegetables.

Acheson added that a warning issued last week against eating either jalapeno or serrano peppers if you are at risk of infection continues. The warning includes infants and elderly people. Tomatoes currently in distribution are safe to eat.

Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases, said tomatoes have not been exonerated and still were under investigation.

The toll of confirmed cases stands at 1,251 people sickened in 43 states in what has become the largest foodborne outbreak in the United States in more than a decade. At least 228 victims required hospitalization.

It didn’t take long for the Center for Science in the Public Interest to say.

“… it’s time for Congress to step in and enact meaningful FDA reform legislation. Though time is short, Congress should act before another outbreak occurs to give FDA strong traceback authority, mandatory process control systems all the way back to the farm, and mandatory recall.”

Will that make food safer? Will it lead to fewer sick people?
It’s not clear to me that any of the armchair quarterbacks – and there have been many – have gotten it right. As with the 2000 E. coli outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Walkerton, Ontario, fragments of the puzzle are used to advance a particular political agenda. The talking heads may make interesting television for a few dozen shut-ins, but it’s a lousy way to set policy.

Doug to People magazine: Follow the poop

An old friend from Kitchener, Ontario, e-mailed me with the news:

"How cool are you? Saw you quoted in article about tomatoes in this week’s People magazine."

I’m not as cool as the CDC’s Bob Tauxe, and cool may not be the word when talking about food safety nerds. But it was fun talking to the reporter, who thought the celebrity barf section of barfblog was particularly apt.

There’s been lots of media as the Salmonella saga continues to unwind: 1090 sick in 42 states and Canada. As part of enhanced testing at the U.S.-Mexican border, FDA found a different Salmonella in a shipment of basil. More poop in produce.

Sysco has stopped distributing fresh jalapeño peppers, food fear fatigue is settling in, farmers are losing money, government agencies are losing credibility, and, as I keep reminding journalists who want to blame someone, there are a lot of sick people out there.

"If they (FDA) go too slow, they’re criticized. If they go too fast, they’re criticized," says Douglas Powell, scientific director of the International Food Safety Network at Kansas State University. "The investigation is still ongoing. The time for finger-pointing isn’t there yet."

Jeffrey Weiss of The Dallas Morning News was one of my favorite interviews.

As Dr. Douglas Powell, scientific director of the International Food Safety Network, puts it: "Follow the poop. … A lot of eating fresh vegetables," Dr. Powell said, "is an act of faith."

Salmonella on The View

The U.S. Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak was discussed on one of my least favorite (but often watched) shows, The View, today.  I do enjoy (note sarcasm here) a discussion of hot topics on the show, and sandwiched between Joy’s kidnapped blackberry and the Christie Brinkley divorce settlement was a discussion about Elisabeth’s fear of tomatoes.  She shared with the audience that she hasn’t eaten tomatoes since the start of the outbreak. 

Elisabeth (you may remember her from Survivor: Australia Outback) was quoted as saying "I haven’t had a tomato, and I love them, I miss them, but now apparently they are trying to pass the blame onto cilantro."

She went on to say that she thinks that is unfair, and that "the tomato should step up and take responsibility for what they are doing."

Elisabeth, what about the jalapeno?

Check out The View’s video page, click on Hot Topics 7/10: Tomatoes.

Jalapenos linked to salmonella outbreak

Elizabeth Weise of USA Today has just reported that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this afternoon that fresh, raw jalapeño peppers have been linked to the salmonella saintpaul outbreak and the young, the old and those with impaired immune systems should avoid eating them.

Robert Tauxe, CDC’s deputy director of the CDC’s division of food borne diseases said,

"persons who want to reduce their risk of salmonella infection should take similar precautions.”

The number of ill people crossed the 1,000 mark today as well, with 1,017 confirmed cases, of which 203 were hospitalized, Tauxe says, making it the worst outbreak in years.

The CDC is also still advising the public to avoid the tomato types grown in regions not yet cleared by FDA, because the initial research showed a clear link between tomatoes and illness. However that includes only a very small number of tomato growing states at this point.

But a second investigation found a strong link between the consumption of fresh peppers.