Salmonella Outbreak Traced to White Pepper Spice

Source of Article:

Posted: March 31, 2009 10:32 AM PDT

From the Washoe County District Health Department:

Washoe County and Carson City public health officials announced today that local consumers should avoid eating ground white pepper which has been processed, packaged and/or distributed by Union International Food Company in Union City, California until further notice. Local restaurant and food store managers, restaurant suppliers and spice wholesalers should check their inventories and remove this product immediately.

Ground white pepper products from the UIFC have been linked to a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella. The discovery of Salmonella in food samples collected from restaurants and food distributors prompted these recommendations.

Thus far, two people in Washoe County and two in Carson City are among the 42 who have been confirmed ill as a result of consuming the contaminated product. Other affected states and corresponding number of cases to date include California (33), Oregon (4) and Washington state (1). The last known date of onset of illness for this outbreak is March 13, 2009. No deaths have been reported, though eight people were hospitalized.

While only ground white pepper has been connected to illness in Northern Nevada, the UIFC immediately announced a voluntary recall of all of the following spices:

  • Cayenne pepper
  • Curry powder
  • Garlic - Chopped, granulated, minced and powder
  • Ginger powder
  • Mustard powder
  • Onion - chopped and powder
  • Paprika
  • Pepper, black - ground and whole
  • Pepper, white - ground and whole
  • Tumeric
  • Wasabi powder

These products do not bear lot codes and were sold primarily to distributors and restaurants. They are packaged under the Lian How brand name (red label) for commercial use in the following sizes and types of containers:

  • 10 and 15 pound cardboard boxes with plastic liners that are tie-closed
  • 4 and 5 pound clear semi-hard plastic wide-mouth jars
  • 5 pound plastic bags
  • 2.2 pound foil bags

Following the Lian How brand name, the wording "Packed by Union International Foods" or "Union International Foods" appears.

The items intended for individual consumer purchase and recalled from retail stores could instead display the "Uncle Chen" brand name.

"Investigators in all four jurisdictions are to be commended for their teamwork in finding the source of this outbreak so quickly and implementing steps to prevent consumers from being affected, especially given that this is a very rare type of Salmonella," stated Dr. Randall Todd, Director of Epidemiology for the Washoe County Health District.

Todd said that federal and California authorities are continuing the investigation in an effort to better understand the contamination and distribution processes involved with this outbreak. 

Salmonella infections cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in infants, frail or elderly individuals, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy individuals infected with Salmonella often experience diarrhea (occasionally bloody), fever, abdominal cramping, nausea and sometimes vomiting. Symptoms typically last less than a week. In rare circumstances, the infection can result in the organism getting into the blood stream and producing more severe illnesses. Anyone with these symptoms should consult with their healthcare provider.

Consumers with questions about the recall may contact UIFC at 510.471.6799.



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