Salmonella outbreak over: CDC
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An outbreak of an unusual strain of Salmonella that sickened more than 1,400 people and put 286 in the hospital appears to be over in the United States, federal health officials said on Thursday.
They said jalapeno and serrano peppers from Mexico were the main source of the outbreak, the largest in a decade, and said the outbreak shows there is more need for monitoring fresh fruits and vegetables.
"It appears that this outbreak is over," Dr. Robert Tauxe of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told reporters on a telephone briefing.
"Preliminary epidemiologic and microbiologic results to date support the conclusion that jalapeno peppers were a major vehicle by which the pathogen was transmitted, and serrano peppers also were a vehicle; tomatoes possibly were a vehicle, particularly early in the outbreak," the CDC said in its weekly report on death and disease.
The outbreak of Salmonella StPaul, which began in April, sickened 1,442 people and may have contributed to the deaths of two elderly men, the CDC said.
The uncommon strain responsible for the outbreak was detected at two Mexican farms in the state of Tamaulipas, which borders Texas, the CDC said. It was found on a pepper at one farm and in the water at the other.
Salmonella poisoning, which causes diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, is common, with 36,000 cases and 400 deaths each year in the United States alone. Nationwide, 76 million cases of food poisoning occur each year.
"This outbreak had some unusual characteristics," Tauxe said. "First, neither raw jalapeno nor raw serrano peppers had previously been identified as a vehicle for a salmonella outbreak in the United States."
It was also unusual because more than one food item was involved. Tauxe said evidence early in the outbreak pointed strongly to tomatoes and the CDC still believes they were likely contaminated, too -- but with such fresh produce the evidence gets thrown out quickly.
The CDC report called the outbreak, which affected 43 states, the "largest food borne disease outbreak identified in the United States in the past decade, based on the number of culture-confirmed cases," and said more cases were likely to be reported.
Dr. David Acheson of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the agency needs broader powers to protect the supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.
"We need Congress to give the FDA authority ... for mandatory controls for fresh foods," Acheson told the briefing.
"We need to develop technologies which will enable us to detect pathogens in fresh produce more quickly," he added. And industry must do more electronic tracking of products.
"Industry is responsible for safe products and tracking (them)," Acheson said. "The point is that not all industry is doing it and there need to be standards."
The Grocery Manufacturers Association favors a bill introduced by Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois that would give the FDA power to force companies to recall unsafe foods and would establish rules for ensuring food safety.
The Bioterrorism Act of 2002 requires produce processors and distributors to keep track of where food comes from and goes. But the measure excludes restaurants and farms.
Last week the FDA approved the use of ionizing radiation to help decontaminate fresh spinach and lettuce. "This should be seen as part of a solution. It isn't a silver bullet," Acheson said.
- Exclusive: Radar data suggests missing Malaysia plane deliberately flown way off course - sources
- Investigators focus on foul play behind missing plane: sources |
- CEOs of biggest Russian firms could be hit by sanctions: paper |
- Kremlin website hit by 'powerful' cyber attack
- Search for Malaysian plane may extend to Indian Ocean - U.S |