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Wholesale Red Pepper Recalled; FDA Says Retail Products May Be Next

Feb. 26, 2010 -- Two wholesale lots of crushed red pepper linked to the ongoing national salmonella outbreak have been recalled, and the FDA is looking at whether to recall retail products.

The FDA has confirmed salmonella contamination of red pepper samples collected at Daniele International Inc. in Rhode Island. Sausages made by Daniele have previously been linked to the salmonella outbreak.

It's not yet clear whether the salmonella in the red pepper is the same strain as the Montevideo strain that has sickened at least 238 people in 44 states and the District of Columbia. While investigating this outbreak, the CDC found that a different type of salmonella, the Seftenberg strain, is also causing food-borne illness in the U.S.

The unopened containers of crushed red pepper found to be contaminated with salmonella were made by Wholesome Spice of Brooklyn, N.Y. As a result, the company has recalled all lots of 25-pound boxes of crushed red pepper it sold between April 6, 2009, and Jan. 20, 2010.

These large boxes of pepper were distributed to wholesale suppliers throughout the Northeast. They were not sold at the retail level. FDA spokesman Sebastian Cianci tells WebMD the agency is working with Wholesome Spice to identify the customers who got the recalled product and to determine whether a recall of retail products will be necessary.

No deaths have been reported in the Salmonella Montevideo outbreak, although about a fourth of the victims have been hospitalized.

The FDA's investigation initially discovered the outbreak strain of salmonella in an open container of black pepper from the Daniele sausage plant. But tests of closed black-pepper containers were negative, suggesting that this form of pepper became contaminated at the plant after it was opened.

In healthy people, salmonella usually causes fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, and/or abdominal pain or cramps. Less commonly, salmonella gets into the bloodstream and causes life-threatening illnesses. Salmonella can be fatal in young children, frail elderly people, and people with weakened immune systems.

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