Mexico Says Pepper Farm Tests Negative for Salmonella (Update2)

By Andres R. Martinez

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Aug. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Mexico's government said its tests of serrano peppers and water from a farm the U.S. identified as infected with salmonella showed no signs of the bacteria.

Samples from the farm in the northern border state of Tamaulipas tested negative for the Saintpaul strain of salmonella that has sickened more than 1,300 people in the U.S. since April, said Enrique Sanchez Cruz, head of Mexico's agriculture and food safety agency.

Similar tests by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration at the same farm last month detected salmonella in a sample of peppers and water used for irrigation, according to the agency. ``We stand by our test results,'' FDA spokesman Michael Herndon said in an e-mail.

U.S. officials have been trying to pinpoint the source of the outbreak that sickened people in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Canada, and initially focused on tomatoes in their investigation. At least 262 people have been hospitalized, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta says.

Salmonella, a bacterium transmitted through animal feces that come in contact with food, can cause diarrhea, fever and cramping.

Sanchez said last month in an interview that the samples U.S. officials said tested positive for salmonella came from a plot of land that had been harvested more than a month ago and water that wasn't used for irrigation.

U.S. officials are still waiting for results from samples taken from a separate jalapeno pepper farm. Sanchez said Mexico's tests showed no signs of contamination at either farm.

`Next Step'

``The next step is for our laboratory to sit down and compare samples and test results with the'' U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Sanchez said.

David Acheson, the FDA's associate commissioner for foods, urged consumers not to eat serrano peppers from Mexico during a congressional hearing on July 30.

U.S. investigators haven't ruled out tomatoes as the source of the illness, though the FDA has said the infected food didn't come from farms in Mexico's Nuevo Leon as originally claimed by Acheson in testimony.

Mexico produced 2.2 million metric tons of peppers in 2007 and exported 14 percent to the U.S. Mexico ships about 12,000 tons of jalapeno and serrano to the U.S. a year.


Last Updated: August 6, 2008 17:41 EDT 



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