Thursday, July 31, 2008

NEWS: A Break in the Salmonella Probe

Federal health officials said Wednesday they have had an important break in the hunt for the source of a nationwide salmonella outbreak. The same strain has been found in serrano peppers and in irrigation water at a farm in Nuevo Leon, Mexico. "We have a smoking gun, it appears," said one official.

Earlier, the Food and Drug Administration had found the same strain of salmonella in a jalapeno pepper from a farm in another part of Mexico, Tamaulipas. However, both the farm where the tainted serrano peppers were found and the Tamaulipas farm shipped produce through a packing facility in Nuevo Leon, suggesting the contamination may have occurred there.

Tomatoes were initially suspected of being the culprit in the salmonella outbreak. Industry representatives complained that they have lost more than $300 million and had to dump tons of perfectly good tomatoes they could not sell because of government warnings.

More than 1,300 people have been sickened since April. Lawmakers are considering reforms to prevent future outbreaks and speed up investigations into them when they do occur. Here, a farmer works in a field of jalapeno plants in Delicias, Mexico.

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