Atlanta, GA (AHN) - Jalapeno peppers and not tomatoes caused some cases of salmonella in the U.S., investigators said Wednesday, adding that the illness toll has now crossed the 1,000 mark.
In what has become the largest food-borne disease outbreak in the past decade, 1,017 people from 41 states, the District of Columbia and Canada have become sick from the rare salmonella strain dubbed Saintpaul since mid-April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC said on its Web site.
The new findings suggest the threat isn't just raw tomatoes, which consumers have been cautioned to avoid for weeks. Officials are still investigating how the produce was infected and what is the source. The strain is traced to a restaurant dish containing fresh jalapenos, and one was linked to an item with jalapenos and tomatoes, the CDC said.
On Wednesday, the CDC called for anyone at higher risk of food-borne illness to avoid raw jalapeno and serrano peppers, spicy chiles used in popular Mexican foods such as fresh salsa and sometimes in pico de gallo, guacamole and tacos.
The warning to avoid certain types of raw tomatoes still remains as they are still being eaten more frequently by those who became ill than by those who didn't develop salmonella.
At least 203 people have been hospitalized with salmonella poisoning. The outbreak has caused the death of a Texas man in his 80s; salmonella may also have contributed to the death of a second Texas man who had cancer.
According to the CDC consumer advisory, people who are at higher risk of food-borne illness include elderly persons, children under the age of one and anyone with a weakened immune system from diseases such as cancer.
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