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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Should I be worried about the black pepper in my shaker?

Honestly, I have no idea, but then I suppose neither does the CDC, FSIS, FDA or Daniele.

With the CDC telling us that the Salmonella Montevideo outbreak was caused by “a widely distributed contaminated food product,” and with the FSIS citing Daniele’s belief that black pepper is a possible source of the contamination, I looked at the salt and pepper sitting on the table in a Sport’s Bar as I watched part of the Jets/Colts game, with some trepidation – especially given some recent pepper history.

In August 2008 the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Pak National Foods Limited warned the public not to consume the National Black Pepper Powder because the product may be contaminated with Salmonella. The product had been distributed in Alberta and British Columbia. The importer, Pak National Foods Limited, Richmond, British Columbia, voluntarily recalled the affected product from the marketplace.

In March 2009 a Northern California company recalled two product lines: "Uncle Chen" white and black peppers and "Lian How" dry spices, after health officials identified Lian How-brand white pepper as the culprit in a recent Salmonella outbreak. At least 42 people had fallen sick in the ongoing, four-month outbreak. Three other states besides Washington have also been also affected: California, Nevada and Oregon.

In August 2009 Adams Extract and Spice announced a voluntary recall of products because they had the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. The products contained a specific lot of ground red pepper supplied by Van de Vries Spice Corporation. This lot of ground red pepper initially tested negative for Salmonella. Subsequently, Adams Extract and Spice was informed that another sample drawn from the same lot was confirmed positive for Salmonella.

I am sure the CDC, FSIS, FDA and Daniele will work this out this week.

  • How long can Salmonella survive in a dry enviroment such as a pepper shaker??

  • Marymary

    That’s a good question. I think it is interesting that there have been outbreaks associated with foods that are relatively dry, and also foods that were once thought to be (relatively) immune to bacterial growth. Perhaps some strains of bacteria are better able to survive in “dry” conditions. Perhaps the herbs and spices that have been associated with the outbreaks were not as dry as we thought they were or they should have been.