Salmonella probe focuses on peppers

MANATEE — Main ingredients in fresh salsa such as jalapeno, cilantro and Serrano peppers have become the lead suspects in a salmonella outbreak initially blamed on certain types of raw tomatoes.

When the investigation began more than two months ago, the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory, warning consumers against eating raw red plum, red Roma and round red tomatoes unless they were grown and harvested in states that appeared on a safe-to-eat list.

But as the investigation went on and consumers continued to become ill, investigators began to look elsewhere. The CDC and FDA expanded the investigation last week to include foods commonly served with tomatoes after noting clusters of people who became ill from eating at restaurants in Texas and other states.

Since mid-April, almost 1,000 people in 40 states have been infected with salmonella poisoning, according to the CDC. Cases highly concentrated in Texas, New Mexico and Illinois account for more than half of those reported in the outbreak.

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