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Salmonella Illnesses Rise: Outbreak Linked to Cilantro and Jalapeños

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Friday, July 11, 2008 1:16 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Foodborne Illness, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Toxic Substances, Salmonella


IMAGE SOURCE: iStockphoto/ ©jalapeño peppers / author: Gordo25

Move over tomatoes, you have company - cilantro, fresh jalapeños and serrano peppers are now suspected as being linked to the salmonella outbreak that has affected over 1,000 people in 41 states, Canada and the District of Columbia.

This is the largest salmonella, food-borne illness outbreak in over ten years.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning to people with compromised immune systems, small children/infants and senior citizens – those most at risk – to pass on consuming any foods that contain cilantro and raw peppers.

Health officials working to trace the source of the outbreak that first began as far back as early April, found that groups of “illnesses were strongly linked with jalapeños.”

Officials are struggling to find a sole source for the outbreak. Some of the illnesses have been traced to foods that contain tomatoes and jalapenos, while some have been traced to foods containing only jalapeños, according to the CDC.

Health officials stress that jalapeños are not solely responsible for the outbreak – tomatoes, fresh serranos and cilantro – are not being ruled out, officials believe they are also linked to the outbreak as they are commonly used together in Mexican food, fresh salsa and other food varieties.

At this time the origin of the contaminated produce, is still unknown.

“We’re using all the tools we have to find out, said Dr. David Acheson, an FDA commissioner.

Unlike the investigation surrounding tomatoes, officials know little about the specific types of cilantro, jalapeños and serranos suspected as culprits in the outbreak, said Dr. Robert Tauxe, CDC’s deputy director of the division of food-borne, bacterial and mycotic diseases.

Officials note, the advice given to consumers remains the same when it comes to tomatoes: avoid consumption of raw red plum, red Roma, round red tomatoes, and products that contain these raw tomatoes.

Some 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported in the United States each year. While Salmonella Saintpaul is a rare strain of salmonella with only 400 cases were reported last year.

General symptoms of salmonella poisoning include fever, abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. Symptoms may not show up until three days after eating food infected with the bacteria. #

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