Grasping at straws? USDA points finger at Mexico

July 26, 2008

Three months into one of the largest Salmonella outbreaks in history, with no specific details or certainty, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now telling consumers that peppers from Mexico are to blame.

“The collective review of the current traceback investigation and harvesting dates, matched with the dates that people became ill, have combined to indicate that the contaminated jalapeño pepper (only one?)originated in Mexico. Additional traceback and traceforward information obtained this week has led to the determination that the Agricola Zarigosa produce-distribution center in McAllen, Texas–from where FDA took the positive jalapeño pepper sample–was not the original source of the contamination.”

Mexican officials said the findings were “premature.”

Initially, tomatoes seemed the most likely source of the outbreak. The FDA told consumers to avoid certain raw tomatoes on June 7, prompting grocery chains and some restaurants nationwide to stop offering them. As a result over $100 million in tomatoes have been destroyed. The agency lifted that ban last week.

So far, 1,294 people infected with the same type of Salmonella Saintpaul have been identified in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Canada, according to the CDC.,

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