In the last two days, information has continued to trickle in from several sources (primarily, and refreshingly, the company itself) about the ongoing salmonella outbreak linked to recalled salami and black pepper . . . and now red pepper.  Yesterday evening, Daniele also disclosed that the supplier of the contaminated red and black pepper was the same entity, Wholesome Spice and Seasonings, who has long been associated with this outbreak.  Daniele has since terminated its relationship with Wholesome Spice, and is now buying only irradiated pepper for use in its salami products. 

Continuing disclosure of these bits of information is crucial to not only the epidemiological investigation into the outbreak, but also as a measure of preventing further illnesses from occurring–particularly since Daniele’s most recent recall expansion included products produced as recently as February 15, 2010.

But one by-product of more information, sometimes, is more questions.  First, can we assume that Wholesome Spice Company, known to have supplied Daniele with black pepper, was also the supplier of the red pepper that tested positive for Salmonella?  Or did Mincing Overseas Spice Company supply Daniele with red pepper too? 

Why it matters:  in an outbreak with so many twists, turns, and new developments, nothing is too far-fetched to require a little investigation.  And if Mincing Overseas Spice Company did supply red pepper (maybe Mincing and Wholesome received red pepper from the same grower/supplier), there may be a need to recall salami products made with red pepper from Mincing too.

Second, and most importantly considering the still-evolving nature of this outbreak, is there a need to be concerned about environmental contamination–i.e. bacterial contamination of the equipment, premises, or workers–at Daniele, Inc?  There has been so much product recalled, and so many potential sources of contamination identified, that it would not be beyond reasonable possibility that the problem is now (if not since the beginning) that there is a persistent source of contamination at Daniele Inc itself. 

Nor would it be the first time that such a scenario–i.e. environmental contamination in a pepper outbreak–has occurred.  In March and April 2009, Union International Food Company recalled a variety of pepper products implicated in a large Salmonella serotype rissen outbreak that sickened many people in the western United States.  Investigation in the Union International outbreak revealed widespread contamination at the Union Internation facility.  And incidentally, we are filing a lawsuit this week on behalf of an elderly California woman who died as a result of her salmonella infection in the Union International outbreak. 

Environmental contamination is, indeed, an important possibility to consider in the ongoing outbreak linked to Daniele Inc’s salami product, and not just from a retrospective point of view.  As noted above, Daniele’s recent recall expansion included products produced as recently as February 15, making it certainly possible that the company has concerns that the salmonella is still in its facility.  And if the salmonella is still there, and its there not just on red or black pepper, but also on the equipment, premises, or in infected food workers, there is also the possibility that more products than just ones containing black or red pepper are contaminated.  Again, a conservative approach to this recall and outbreak by the companies involved is only going to cause more illnesses.