The U.S. Food & Drug Administration(FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) held a joint media conference call this afternoon.   It came shortly after CDC posted new numbers of culture confirmed cases of Salmonella Saintpaul.

We cover that in great detail over on the Salmonella Blog.   Check out Salmonella Saintpaul Makes More Than 1,000 Sick: CDC Putting Focus On Peppers, Cilantro As Well

From their session with the media, we think its fair to say that "hot" peppers have taken their place as equals along side tomatoes in the ongoing hunt for the source of the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak. 

But anyone who thinks either FDA or CDC will be treating "hot" peppers like they did tomatoes is missing the wisdom of something Emerson once said:  "foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

For example, there is no warning going out to the general public about "hot" peppers.   Instead, there’s this posted tonight on FDA’s website:

Although epidemiological and other evidence continues to have a strong association with certain raw tomatoes, a recent case control study and disease cluster information provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that not only tomatoes, but also raw jalapeno and serrano peppers may be linked to illnesses in this continuing outbreak.

At this time, the FDA is advising people in high risk populations such as elderly persons, infants and people with impaired immune systems to avoid eating raw jalapeno and raw serrano peppers.

In addition, the FDA continues to advise consumers to avoid eating raw red plum, red Roma, or red round tomatoes except for those grown in the areas listed (see extended reading area) below. Tomatoes grown in those areas have not been associated with the outbreak.

Nor will there be any list of safe "hot" pepper growing areas as with tomatoes.  Dr. David Acheson, FDA’s associate commissioner for foods, says the safe list sort of grew up when some growing areas pointed out the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak started before they were producing a crop.

What FDA and CDC are doing is working their tracebacks hard.   They’ve been helped by having more clusters to work with as the outbreak has continued.  And, the two agencies aren’t worried about any oversight this outbreak might bring them.

"Our mission is to protect public health," said Acheson.


Reader Challenge:   Ask your grocery store or favorite restaurant where they are getting their tomatoes from.   Let us know what kind of answers you get!   Here’s the "safe" list of growing areas from FDA.

At this time, FDA recommends consuming raw red plum, raw red Roma, or raw red round tomatoes only if grown and harvested from the following areas that HAVE NOT BEEN ASSOCIATED WITH THE OUTBREAK:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida (counties of: Jackson, Gadsden, Leon, Jefferson, Madison, Suwannee, Hamilton, Hillsborough, Polk, Manatee, Hardee, DeSoto, Sarasota, Highlands, Pasco, Sumter, Citrus, Hernando, Charlotte)*
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho New!
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island New!
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Dominican Republic
  • Guatemala
  • Israel
  • Mexican States (Aguascalientes, Baja California Norte, Baja California Sur, Campeche, Colima, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Distrito Federal, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, México, Michoacán, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Querétaro, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Sonora, Tobasco, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Yucatán, Zacatecas)
  • Netherlands
  • Puerto Rico

* Shipments of tomatoes harvested in these counties are acceptable with a certificate issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.


Consumers who are unsure of where the
tomatoes are from that they have in
their home are encouraged to contact the store or place of purchase
for that information. If consumers are
unable to determine the source of the tomatoes,
they should not be eaten.

Consumers should also be aware that raw
tomatoes are often used in the preparation
of fresh salsa, guacamole, and pico de gallo, are part
of fillings for tortillas, and are used
in other dishes.

Types of tomatoes not linked to any illnesses are cherry tomatoes, grape
tomatoes, and tomatoes with the vine still attached.