Found: Smoking Jalapeno
As reported Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration has found the strain of salmonella that has been making people sick since April in a jalapeno pepper collected from a small Texas produce distributor.
The FDA found the pepper by tracing back food eaten by people who got sick. The victims were part of one of the restaurant clusters FDA has been investigating, hoping to come across a lead like this one. Now the FDA can focus its efforts on where that pepper came from and hopefully find a source.
So you don't get confused, there is a separate recall going on involving salmonella tainted peppers in North Carolina and Texas. Those jalapenos are not involved in the national outbreak of Salmonella saintpaul, although North Carolina officials tell us that the contaminated peppers were found because of testing being done as a result of the saintpaul outbreak. (Funny what you find when you go looking for it.)
Getting back to the saintpaul investigation, FDA's David Acheson stressed that FDA doesn't know where the jalapeno was contaminated. It could've happened at harvest in Mexico or anywhere along the pepper's journey to McAllen, Tex. where the distribution facility is located. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is continuing a new round of detailed interviews with people in the Southwest who got sick after June 1.
My impression from the CDC's Robert Tauxe on Monday's news teleconference was that the interviews may help them understand whether jalapenos could explain all of the cases, or, as he put it, whether there was something about the food the early victims ate or the way they prepared it that led them not to report eating jalapenos.
Tauxe also said we may all have to live without knowing for sure whether tomatoes were ever involved.
It will be interesting to see what effect this outbreak will have on future ones, especially the relationship between FDA and growers. Will growers demand more proof next time, especially if an outbreak involves an item as commonly eaten as tomatoes?
It is a question of credibility. So I'll ask you: if it turns out tomatoes were never the cause, are you less likely to believe FDA and CDC next time they tell you not to eat something?
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