Salmonella bacteria: Mexico and the U.S. disagree on where

a Mexican-grown pepper actually became contaminated.



El Universal, Mexico

U.S. Charge on Jalapeño Peppers 'Lacks Any Scientific Evidence'


"The decision against [Mexican] jalapeno peppers seemed hasty to me, and for that reason we have asked that greater care be taken before statements of this type are made."


-- Mexican Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova


By J. Jaime Hernández, Manuel Lombera and Jonathan Tapia


Translated By Miguel Gutierrez


July 31, 2008


Mexico - El Universal - Original Article (Spanish)

WASHINGTON: After an arduous and controversial investigation, U.S. health authorities determined yesterday that the source of serrano and jalapeno peppers contaminated with a strain of salmonella were Saint Paul irrigation systems in the fields of Nuevo Leon state, Mexico.


Jalapeno peppers: The FDA found a jalapeno pepper contaminated

with a strain of salmonella that has sickened thousands of people. The

pepper, which showed up at a Texas distribution facility, originated in

Mexico but could have been contaminated in a variety of places. …


Confronted with this, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended that people refrain from eating chilies from Mexico.


The salmonella contamination, which has resulted in the hospitalization of 370 people in 43 U.S. states, has been reduced to a single source of contagion in Mexico, ending an intense investigation and an ongoing source of diplomatic friction.


Confronted with this assertion, Mexican government health authorities have called for restraint [on the part of consumers] similar to that of their North American counterparts, since serrano and jalapeno peppers grown and packed on Mexican territory could have become contaminated in the neighboring country [the U.S.].


Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova, interviewed in Campeche, pointed out that on the tomato issue, no evidence of contamination was identified.


"The decision against [Mexican] jalapeno peppers seemed hasty to me, and for that reason we have asked that greater care be taken before statements of this type are made."


Peppers for sale in a Mexico City market, July 26.


He indicated that the contaminated pepper found at a Texas company did originate in Mexico, but that there is a question of whether the contamination could have taken place in the United States.


Enrique Sánchez Cruz, director of the National Farm Food Quality Service, said that the FDA investigators into Mexican Jalapeño peppers "lacked any scientific evidence."


He made it clear that the tests were "inconsistent," since the water samples were taken from a water tank in Tamaulipas: "The tank water could have gotten contaminated by roaming cattle or any number of things."



He also assured people that the border, "has not been closed to Mexican exports of jalapeno peppers, which totals 12,000 tons annually."


Director General, Nuevo Leon Agriculture & Livestock Development Corporation, Fermín Montes Cavazos, dismissed the idea that the outbreak could be traced back to his organization, since it last produced this type of pepper in April, whereas the contaminated pepper was picked in the beginning of June. 



He also stressed that the contaminated pepper was collected from a plot of land that had already been replanted, although harvested fruit spends several days out of the ground during which it may easily become contaminated.


He added that the sampling was not objective: "The water sample and the serrano pepper were not from Nuevo Leon, but from another state."




"We have a smoking gun," said Dr. Lonnie King of the Center for Disease Control, when informing the public that the Salmonella Saintpaul strain in an irrigation system used in fields of jalapeño peppers had been picked up by CDC instruments in a sample earlier in its the investigation.


The information, well-publicized during a Congressional hearing yesterday, was that the contaminated pepper was found at the Agricola Zarigosa produce distribution center in McAllen, Texas, and that all farms that grow jalapeño peppers in the New Mexico highlands and other regions of the United States have been cleared of all suspicion.


The FDA, the agency at the forefront of a complex and risky almost four-month investigation that included toiling in fields of tomato, onion and coriander - has asserted that at last it had managed to determine the origin of the contamination and has recommended that the population abstain from consuming jalapeño peppers originating in Mexico.


This recommendation has to be respected, especially among "high risk" populations such as children, the elderly and patients with fragile immune systems.


Last week, Mexico submitted its suspicions about the jalapeños to the FDA.












































[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US August 1, 9:19pm]