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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Agricola Zaragoza, Inc. of Texas Recalls Jalapeno Peppers – We are watching you.

The FDA has announced that Agricola Zaragoza, Inc. of McAllen, Texas is recalling Jalapeno Peppers distributed since June 30th, 2008 (see CDC Report below) because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism that can cause serious and sometimes-fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

The Jalapeno Peppers being recalled were shipped in 35lb. plastic crates and in 50lb. bags with no brand name or label. The recall is a result of sampling by FDA, which revealed that these Jalapeno Peppers were contaminated with the same strain of Salmonella Saintpaul responsible for the current Salmonella outbreak. It is unknown at this time, which, if any, of the more than 1,200 illnesses reported to date is related to this particular product or to the grower who supplied this product. Distribution of these products has been suspended while FDA, the Texas Department of State Health Services and the company continue their investigation as to the source of the problem.

So, they are only recalling Jalapeno Peppers "since June 30th"? 

Why, if the CDC says the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak, which now numbers 1251 ill, whose illnesses began between April 10 and July 4, 2008, including 19 who became ill on July 1 or later, is the recall only start June 30th?  So, that means that something started sickening people BEFORE June 30th?  What?  Tomatoes still not off the hook?

To make matters even more confusing, the FDA announced that Grande Produce, LTD. is recalling Jalapeno Peppers, Serrano Peppers, and Avocados do to a possible health risk.

NOTE: "According to the Texas and North Carolina Departments of Health, the strain of Salmonella found in this company’s jalapeño and serrano peppers and in its avocado is not Salmonella Saintpaul, and is not believed to be related to the current Salmonella outbreak.

Grande Produce, LTD. CO of Hidalgo, Texas (hereinafter referred to as Grande Produce) is recalling Jalepeno Peppers and Serrano Peppers distributed between May 17th and July 17th, 2008; and Avocados, all sizes, with lot #HUE08160090889 because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. The Jalapeno Peppers, Serrano Peppers and Avocados were distributed to the following states: TX, DE, NC, GA, OK, IA, MN, IL, FL, IN, MD, NY, MS, AR, KS, and KY. The avocados being recalled were shipped in boxes labeled "Frutas Finas de Tancitaro HASS Avocados, Produce of Mexico," all sizes, with lot number HUE08160090889. The Jalapeno Peppers and Serrano peppers being recalled were shipped in 35lb. plastic crates with no brand name or label.

  • Ron Anderson

    It would appear that the jalapeno in question had salmonella on it, not in it. That would be important to know for those of us who don’t mind cooking our on the gas cooktop to remove some of the outer peel. I suppose that the process itself raises the temp of the pepper over 160 degrees, so maybe it isn’t that important. My point is that I will continue to eat jalapenos, but I guess I have to cook them in the oven or on the stove first. By the way, we now put our tomatoes in boiling water briefly and peel them before eating. The difference is that salmonella can grow inside tomatoes, but I am skeptical about the same thing for jalapenos. I understand that capsaicin (sic?), the “heat” in the jalapeno, is used to prevent salmonella spreading among poultry.
    Ron Anderson
    Las Vegas

  • Ryan

    Eh.
    To clear up a few points:
    Keep in mind that these peppers are processed by several different entities before they hit the market. McAllen, TX, is home to one of the two distribution facilities supplying Mexican produce to the USA (the other is in Nogales, AZ).
    Furthermore, Agricola Zaragoza is not the grower. They’re simply a distributor. The disease needn’t have come from them, so thinly-veiled threats against the company are not necessarily the wisest course of action at this juncture. It is best to reserve such judgments until conclusive results are posted by the authorities, as we saw in the case of Agropecuaria Montelibano, whose independent field tests concluded that the sickness contained in melon shipments did NOT originate in their fields.
    Still further, Tomatoes have not been conclusively disproven as a vector in the Sal.sp outbreak, and so, while the FDA has said that they’re safe to consume, it’s faulty to claim that they weren’t the original source with any certainty.
    Finally, relying on the capsaicin content of jalapenos to keep them save isn’t really smart – they’ve got a relatively low content, and the capsaicinoids used in agriculture are more of a pesticide and large animal repellant – it doesn’t work on diseases and even if it did, the jalape√±o does not contain enough natural capsaicin to fend off an infection, as we are currently seeing.
    Regards,
    Ryan, Ohio.

  • Jimmy

    What is the status of Cilantro? I see lots of information clearing tomotoes, but none on Cilantro.
    Thanks