It is always nice to be proven right, although I know I should really not be pleased since people are becoming seriously ill all over America. But I did predict that the next big outbreak would be caused by Salmonella bacteria. And I did warn that spices are much more deadly than those innocent little pinches of taste suggest.
It is a long story, but basically what has been going on for the last few weeks is an outbreak of Salmonella montevideo bacteria in black and/or red pepper. Yes, Salmonella has proven itself quite able to live for months in dry environments, such as spices. And of course, it may soon move to a much pleasanter home when such spices are used as ingredient in many processed and ready-to-eat foods - or, in our homes.
In this case it started with people becoming ill from eating a variety of ready-to-eat Italian-style meats distributed by Daniele International Inc.in Rhode Island(see earlier post). A trace-back of ingredients by the FDA eventually pinpointed pepper as the suspect ingredient, and the likely source as two companies - Overseas Spice Company, Dayton, N.J.; and Wholesome Spice Company, Brooklyn, N.Y. (some irony in the 'wholesome' name, right?). Both of these companies had supplied pepper to Daniele International. Of course, both also sold to other commercial companies as well, who incorporated them into their own products, or packaged and sold them under other labels.
As a result we now have a spreading outbreak and multiplying number of food product recalls - not just spicy sausage, but also recalls of black and red pepper - whole black pepper, crushed red pepper, and ground red pepper and of dips mixes and a variety of seasonings- too many to list. Two of the distributor are Dutch Valley Food Distributors, Inc. and Frontier Natural Products Co-Op. Frontier not only sold under the Frontier brand but also under the Whole Foods Market brands (poor Whole Foods - here's another recall for you). This is just the tip of the iceberg, or the beginning of the landslide.
In the meantime, illnesses caused by such Salmonella contaminated pepper have occurred in 44 states. So far there have been at least 249 confirmed cases, with many more winding their way through the reporting system, and more still to come.
The FDA is continuing its investigation of the original source of these pepper products. It isn't saying at the moment. My guess would be China, where a lot of such spices come from these days. I'll see what I can find out.
Bon appetit (but take it easy on the peppers and spicy sausages and hope your retailer is keeping up with the recalls).