Breaking News on Food Safety & Quality Control

Salami salmonella suspicion expands to red pepper

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 17-Feb-2010

Crushed red pepper is now under suspicion for a multi-state salmonella outbreak that has been linked to salami, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has said in an investigation update.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had already found salmonella in an open container of black pepper at the Rhode Island-based firm, Daniele International. And the Rhode Island Department of Health has also reported that black pepper samples from two of the company’s spice suppliers – Mincing Overseas Spice Company and Wholesome Spice – had tested positive for salmonella, although both companies have said that the testing only involved open containers. The FDA says its tests of black pepper from these suppliers have returned negative for salmonella and its examination of the supply chain is ongoing.

Meanwhile, Daniele has said that it has switched suppliers and is now only buying spices that have been irradiated to eliminate bacteria, including salmonella.

Red pepper has become the most recent focus of the investigation after salmonella was found in an unopened salami product previously unaffected by the recall, following testing by the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service as well as Daniele International itself.

“Based on preliminary testing results, the company believes that crushed red pepper may be a possible source of Salmonella contamination,” the USDA said.

According to the agency, the salami had not been included in the original January 23 recall because it is not a product coated with black pepper, nor is it packaged with such products. However, crushed red pepper is used to spice the salami.

Nevertheless, the USDA said: “The investigation is ongoing and the root cause of the contamination has not yet been determined.”

Following this latest discovery of salmonella-tainted salami, Daniele International has extended the recall to include a further 115,000lb of salami products. The company has already recalled more than 1.3m pounds of salami since January 23. More information about the recall can be found here .

Further tests are needed to discover whether the salmonella strain found in this latest recalled salami matches the Salmonella Montevideo strain associated with the multistate outbreak, the USDA said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it has recorded 230 illnesses across 44 states and the District of Columbia as a result of the strain linked to Daniele’s salami products, but because it is a common strain, “public health investigators may determine that some of the illnesses are not part of this outbreak.”

Both the FDA and the USDA have become involved in the investigation as the FDA is responsible for the safety of spices, while the USDA regulates meat safety.

The investigation continues.

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