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Dr. David Acheson, the assistant commissioner for food protection at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), told a Congressional hearing yesterday that the agency’s investigators have detected the Salmonella saintpaul strain in irrigation water and serrano peppers on a farm in Mexico. Jalapeno peppers also are grown on the farm in question.

In addition, Acheson said, the FDA has determined that the Mexican farm supplied peppers to a Texas distribution facility where the Salmonella saintpaul strain was detected last week.

The announcement is the latest in a series of revelations connected to a salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 1,200 people in 47 states. At first, FDA believed that tomatoes were responsible, and instigated a recall that ended up costing the tomato industry as much as $100 million…even though tomatoes eventually were cleared as safe to eat by FDA. The agency’s attention has now turned to jalapeno and Serrano peppers, though FDA s being careful not to paint with too broad a brush lest it be caught yet again in mistaken accusations.

The revelation by Acheson came as the US Congress has taken it upon itself to investigate the circumstances behind the recent salmonella outbreak, with hearings schedule by both the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture and the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

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