Last week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory against eating jalapenos as well as serrano peppers imported from Mexico because of the salmonella outbreak. Pepper lovers have little to fear, however, in this area.
According to the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control the victim count for salmonella in the U.S. and Canada is 1,319 with about 225 cases requiring hospitalization. Arkansas currently has reported 21 cases of salmonella.
However, the stores in this part of the country are doing their best to keep their customers safe.
Town & Country in Salem is salmonella free. The store doesn't carry serrano peppers, but it does have jalapeno peppers. Their peppers are grown in the United States. Patti Wallace, produce manager of the store, said, "We have no Mexican grown produce here. Everything we have is grown in the U.S." Wallace also said the store has a system that tracks everything.
If the store does have produce that is contaminated, "We pull it off the shelf, and we don't advertise it," she said.
When produce comes from a source that is directly from an infected area, the store has a different policy. "If the produce happens to come from an infected area, we destroy it," Wallace said.
"Our primary concern is to make sure the public is safe," Wallace said.
Angie Wiles, produce manager of the Town & Country in Hardy said they don't carry either jalapeno or serrano peppers. But, if they were to have any such produce from an infected area store workers would burn them.
Adding to the sigh of relief in the area, the larger pocketbook-friendly chain stores are also doing their part to keep the public safe. According to a Wal-Mart press release, "Food is top priority … Following updated information provided by the FDA on Friday, July 25, we destroyed all Mexico-grown jalapeno peppers and returned all U.S.-grown jalapeno peppers to our shelves."
Wednesday, July 30, chief of the CDC's center for foodborne illnesses, Lonnie King, said, "We have a smoking gun, it appears," when the FDA concluded the source of the outbreak to be connected to irrigation water in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico (Nuevo Leon business address).
The FDA advises consumers to avoid raw jalapeno and serrano peppers that were grown, harvested or packed in Mexico. Peppers grown in the U.S. "are not connected with this outbreak. Commercially canned, pickled and cooked jalapeno peppers are also not connected," according to the FDA. The CDC advises that cooking vegetables kills the salmonella bacteria.
According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, "Most people experience diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within eight to 72 hours after the contaminated food was eaten. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms usually disappear within four to seven days. Many people with salmonellosis recover without treatment and may never see a doctor. However, salmonella infections can be life-threatening especially for infants and young children, pregnant women and their unborn babies, and older adults, who are at a higher risk for foodborne illness, as are people with weakened immune systems (such as those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease and transplant patients)." Because the symptoms can sometimes be mild oftentimes cases are not reported to the FDA.