The FDA announced yesterday that its traceback investigation to find the source of the largest outbreak of foodborne illness here in a decade has finally turned up something concrete.
Lab testing showed that a sample of a serrano pepper and a sample of irrigation water on a farm in the state of Nuevo Leon, Mexico, contain Salmonella Saintpaul with the same genetic fingerprint as the strain of bacteria that is causing the current outbreak in the US.
FDA inspectors recently found a jalapeño pepper at a distribution warehouse in Texas that had originated in Mexico and tested positive for the strain of Salmonella Saintpaul. However the agency said that pepper originated from a different farm in Mexico than the most recent sample of serrano pepper and irrigation water.
The LA Times reports that contaminated water is a common launchpad for salmonella, and fecal matter can seep or be washed into wells, canals and other untreated water sources used to irrigate crops.
The investigation continues, but the FDA advises consumers to avoid eating raw serrano and jalapeño peppers from Mexico.
What about all those poor tomatoes? The FDA warns that this latest discovery is a breakthrough, and that tomatoes may have contributed to the outbreak earlier; it has been going on for four months. The Times says no tomatoes have tested positive for the strain of salmonella.
For more information, you can go to the FDA's website.
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