Tomatoes were the first major suspects in a US salmonella outbreak, now it is jalapeno peppers.
In Cayman, Foster’s supermarket pulled jalapeno peppers from its shelves last week for precautionary reasons when peppers were first being investigated as a source of the outbreak, while Kirk’s removed the peppers yesterday.
According to the US Centre for Disease Control, 1,251 people with Salmonella Saintpaul with the same genetic fingerprint have been identified in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Canada since April 2008
Raul Mena, store manager of Hurley’s said it had established that none of the peppers stocked by the store had originated from the area identified by the US Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA announced a recall on Monday after announcing that one jalapeno pepper sample was a positive genetic match with the salmonella strain at the centre of the health scare.
The Cayman Islands Department of Environmental Health checked Tuesday morning with retailers, suppliers and distributors to establish if their jalapeno pepper stocks came from a produce distribution centre in McAllen, Texas – the site identified by the FDA.
The distribution centre, Agricola Zaragoza, is working with FDA to voluntarily recall jalapeno peppers the company distributed since June 30, 2008.
An FDA statement said: ‘The pepper was grown on a farm in Mexico, however, that does not mean that the pepper was contaminated in Mexico.’
The FDA is advising people to avoid eating raw jalapeno peppers or foods made from raw jalapeno peppers until further notice in order to prevent additional cases of illness. This recommendation does not include cooked or pickled jalapeno peppers.
Ross Thielmann, sales manager of Cayman Imports said his company had been alerted by the Department of Environmental Health and was checking if jalapenos in his storeroom were from the farm.
‘We have just one small five pound box in our store right now and I’ve instructed the staff not to send it out until we double check its origin,’ Mr Thielmann said.
Tania Johnson of the Environmental Health Department said an environmental health officer was checking supermarkets and suppliers to ensure that no peppers suspected of being salmonella-infected would reach the public.
‘We forwarded the FDA alert to the supermarkets, so they are aware of it. We’re also contacting all distributors,’ she said.
Last month, the FDA issued a recall on raw red plum, Roma and round tomatoes, leading stores in the US, Cayman and overseas to remove the fruit from their shelves. That advisory has now been lifted.