FDA limits salmonella warning to Mexican peppers

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Only Mexican-grown raw jalapeños and raw serrano peppers have been linked to the salmonella outbreak, a spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration said Friday.

Mexican officials said the findings were "premature," even as the FDA issued an advisory stating that a contaminated jalapeño pepper originated in Mexico. The news came just days after the FDA announced it discovered salmonella on a jalapeño imported from Mexico at The Agricola Zarigosa produce-distribution center in McAllen, Texas. But Mexican Embassy spokesman Ricardo Alday noted that the investigation is ongoing. "Mexico strongly urges the FDA to abstain from making any further public comment implicating Mexican produce in this outbreak until it has completed its investigation of jalapeño peppers in Mexico, and until the United States has assured the result with their Mexican counterparts," Alday said. Peppers grown in the United States have not been connected to the outbreak that has sickened more than 1,000 people since April, said FDA spokesman Michael Herndon.

Initially, tomatoes seemed the most likely source of the outbreak. The FDA told consumers to avoid certain raw tomatoes on June 7, prompting grocery chains and some restaurants nationwide to stop offering them.

The agency lifted that ban last week, determining that tomatoes currently in fields and stores are safe. Learn about the differences between salmonella and E. coli » The FDA now advises consumers to avoid raw jalapeño peppers grown in Mexico and any foods containing raw jalapeño peppers grown in Mexico. Only immune-compromised people, the elderly and infants should avoid raw serrano peppers from Mexico, Herndon said.

Cooked or pickled peppers from cans or jars are not part of the warning. Learn how to keep your food safe » Tomatoes, which were the original focus of the investigation, still have not been ruled out as a possible source of the outbreak, said Dr. David Acheson, director of food safety for the agency. "The science that indicated that tomatoes were implicated was strong and is still strong," he said "It's not that tomatoes have been exonerated." He said officials do not believe that tomatoes currently on the market are contaminated. Officials said earlier this week that tomatoes could have been paired with another food that was contaminated, prompting the outbreak.

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