Make us your home page

Tomatoes are cleared, 2 types of peppers are not

Eat all the fresh tomatoes you want. But the elderly and other vulnerable populations should now avoid fresh serrano and jalapeno peppers.

That's the latest word from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, as officials continue searching for the source of an ongoing salmonella outbreak that has affected more than 1,220 people in 42 states.

While health officials were not ready to absolve tomatoes of any connection to early cases of the illness, which appeared in mid April, on Thursday they lifted the warning against all kinds of fresh tomatoes. Farms, including many in Florida, that had been picking tomatoes during the early stages of the outbreak are no longer harvesting. And investigators found no trace of salmonella Saintpaul, the unique strain of bacteria tied to the outbreak, in tomato farms, packinghouses and warehouses in Florida or other states.

Meanwhile, more recent clusters of illnesses, specifically those tied to several Mexican restaurants, have raised suspicions that the illness may be connected to consumption of fresh jalapeno or serrano peppers, either eaten whole or as part of fresh salsas. That led to Thursday's warning that these kinds of peppers should not be eaten by the very young, the elderly and people with impaired immune systems.

The FDA said it has investigators at a packinghouse in Mexico that handles both types of peppers. Officials could not say when the outcome of that investigation might be available.

Dr. David Acheson, the FDA's associate commissioner for foods, said it is possible the contamination moved from one type of produce to another over the course of the outbreak, which appears to be decreasing in intensity.

"I'm personally not aware of any such cases of cross-contamination in the past, but this is not following the trail of a regular produce outbreak," Acheson said of the salmonella cases, the latest identified on July 4.

"They usually follow the shelf life of the produce," he said. "But something else is going on here."

Though Acheson stressed the FDA found no problems with Florida farms, the state's tomato growers are still fuming. Ed Angrisani, part-owner of Taylor & Fulton Packaging in Palmetto, said the state's tomato industry lost millions of dollars in sales when the FDA issued its warning in early June. The lifting of the warning comes as he and other growers face decisions about planting the fall tomato crop.

"My business is about 60 percent of what it was before the alert," Angrisani said. "Do I plant 60 percent, 100 percent or not at all? I'll give it another 30 days and see if the business comes back."

Kris Hundley can be reached at or (727) 892-2996.


Florida tomatoes

"We have long been confident that Florida's tomatoes were not associated with the salmonella Saintpaul outbreak," said the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, whose farmers are considering whether to start planting a fall tomato crop. "Tomatoes from Florida's growing regions have been gone from the marketplace for weeks, so they could not have been the source of the contamination."

Tomatoes are cleared, 2 types of peppers are not 07/17/08 [Last modified: Friday, July 18, 2008 6:44am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming


    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  2. A sports rout on Wall Street


    NEW YORK — Sporting goods retailers can't shake their losing streak.

  3. Grocery chain Aldi hosting hiring event in Brandon Aug. 24


    BRANDON — German grocery chain Aldi is holding a hiring event for its Brandon store Aug. 24. It is looking to fill store associate, shift manager and manager trainee positions.

  4. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik backs film company pursuing global blockbusters


    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik's latest investment might be coming to a theater near you.

    Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner, invested in a new movie company looking to appeal to a global audience. | [Times file photo]
  5. Trigaux: Look to new Inc. 5000 rankings for Tampa Bay's future heavyweights


    There's a whole lotta fast-growing private companies here in Tampa Bay. Odds are good you have not heard of most of them.


    Kyle Taylor, CEO and founder of The Penny Hoarder, fills a glass for his employees this past Wednesday as the young St. Petersburg personal advice business celebrates its landing at No. 25 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in the country. Taylor, still in his 20s, wins kudos from executive editor Alexis Grant for keeping the firm's culture innovative. The business ranked No. 32 last year. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]