The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is alerting the public to a voluntary recall by Union International Food Company (Union City, Calif.) of the company’s dry spice products. The recall is based on an investigation of an ongoing foodborne illness outbreak of Salmonella Rissen. This investigation is being conducted in collaboration with state health officials in California, Oregon, Nevada, Washington and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The company’s products are distributed in these states and Arizona.

The dry spices being recalled were sold primarily to ethnic restaurants, wholesalers, and retail outlets under the brand names “Lian How” and “Uncle Chen.” At this time, the distribution of products appears confined to the western region of the country.

The recalled products sold at retail outlets include 5-ounce plastic jars of the following Uncle Chen brand dry spices: Whole White Pepper, Ground White Pepper, Whole Black Pepper, and Ground Black Pepper. The Lian How brand products are generally sold to restaurants and wholesalers; a full list of recalled products appears below.

A total of 42 cases of Salmonella Rissen infection have been reported to the CDC by health officials in California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Most of the reported cases (33) are in California.

Information, including epidemiologic information and preliminary test results on samples collected, from health authorities in the affected states, links white and black pepper as foods possibly associated with illnesses. The FDA and California officials are inspecting the Union City, Calif. processing facility and have collected environmental and product samples.

The FDA advises consumers who may have purchased these dry spices to dispose of them. Restaurants, retail outlets, and other purchasers should stop using the recalled dry spices immediately and dispose of them. Also, the public is advised to discard any food made with these products and to remove the dry spices from dispensers on consumer tables and at kitchen work stations. All equipment and utensils that have come into contact with these dry spices should be washed, rinsed and sanitized before further use.

Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis. Individuals who are experiencing these symptoms should contact a doctor immediately or go to an emergency room for evaluation.