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Salmonella Blog Surveillance & Analysis on Salmonella News & Outbreaks

Tomatoes, Cilantro, Jalapeño Peppers, Serrano Peppers, Scallions and Bulb Onions Now Being Investigation in Salmonella Saintpaul Outbreak – Nearly 1,000 Sickened

According to CNN, “starting Monday, health inspectors will halt the shipment of ingredients common to Mexican cuisine from Mexico to the United States” – this will include cilantro, jalapeno peppers, Serrano peppers, scallions and bulb onions. I assume that it may still include tomatoes?

As for illnesses, the CDC reports that 943 persons infected with Salmonella Saintpaul with the same genetic fingerprint have been identified in 40 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada. Nearly 150 have been hospitalized. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alabama (2 persons), Arkansas (10), Arizona (45), California (8), Colorado (12), Connecticut (4), Florida (2), Georgia (24), Idaho (4), Illinois (93), Indiana (14), Iowa (2), Kansas (17), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (1), Maine (1), Maryland (29), Massachusetts (22), Michigan (7), Minnesota (8), Missouri (12), New Hampshire (4), Nevada (11), New Jersey (9), New Mexico (98), New York (28), North Carolina (10), Ohio (7), Oklahoma (23), Oregon (10), Pennsylvania (8), Rhode Island (3), South Carolina (1), Tennessee (8), Texas (356), Utah (2), Virginia (29), Vermont (2), Washington (4), Wisconsin (10), and the District of Columbia (1). One ill person is reported from Ontario, Canada. 

According to the CDC, for every one person who is a stool-culture positive victim of salmonella in the United States, there a multiple of 38.5 who are also sick, but remain uncounted.  (See, AC Voetsch, “FoodNet estimate of the burden of illness caused by nontyphoidal Salmonella infections in the United States,”Clinical Infectious Diseases 2004;38 (Suppl 3):S127-34).  That means that we are close to poisoning 38,000 people and we do not even know the vector.

See Wall Street Journal Article – "Jalapenos Probed in Outbreak"

The fresh vegetable industry has been beating up on the CDC and FDA in recent days – some even ignoring the ill people and asking for government handouts to tomato growers.

Something to think about, according to the FDA, during the past decade, the consumption of fresh and fresh-cut tomatoes has been linked to at least 12 different outbreaks of foodborne illness (most salmonella) in the United States. Those outbreaks include 1,840 confirmed cases of illness. The majority of these outbreaks have been traced to products from Florida and the eastern shore of Virginia; however, tomato-associated outbreaks also have been traced to tomatoes from California, Georgia, Ohio, and South Carolina.

On the other hand I could not find a Jalapeno outbreak tied to salmonella at all and only two possibly linked to Hepatitis A and Norovirus.  Heck,  at Virginia Tech researchers found that "Hot pepper oil may prevent salmonella in poultry."