The FDA announced Tuesday that, as a result of a recall of using salmonella-contaminated black pepper from Mincing Overseas Spice Company  in its products, Blue Line Foodservice Distribution of Farmington Hills, MI is voluntarily recalling Little Caesars Spice Paks. The Spice Paks are small white packets, approximately 1.5” X 2.5” that contain black pepper and other

We have been following the large outbreak and recall linked to Daniele Inc. salami products since the middle of January.  The outbreak began in July 2009, but was not discovered until January 2010.  Two strains of Salmonella–Montevideo and Senftenberg–are known to have been involved.  The recall began on January 23, 2010, with Daniele’s recall of

Yesterday, Heartland Foods, Inc., an Indianapolis, Indiana company recalled "all sizes/containers of COARSE GROUND BLACK PEPPER shipped from their facility at 6815 E. 34th Street, Indianapolis IN. Potential distribution took place on or after October 19th, 2009 to February 17th, 2010." 

This recall comes on the heels of a major national outbreak linked to pepper-coated salami

Over the last several years, there have been multiple outbreaks linked to, and recalls of, various kinds of spices. From white pepper, to red pepper, to black pepper and beyond, spices are a potentially ideal vehicle for the transmission of foodborne disease. More and more people are becoming ill from contaminated spices, and more and more recalls are occurring. So is this problem merely an emerging threat? Or is it a problem that food producers must confront here and now, finding ways to better ensure the safety of the consumers they profit from.

Spice outbreaks in recent history:

1. Veggie Booty

In May 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began a multi-state investigation in response to an increase in laboratory reports, first posted on PulseNet on April 2, 2007, of Salmonella Wandsworth. Salmonella Wandsworth is a very rare serotype that was never before implicated in a U.S. outbreak. As of September 6, 2007, there were 69 reported cases of Salmonella Wandsworth in 23 states and 14 cases of Salmonella Typhimurium in six states who became ill after consuming Veggie Booty, a puffed vegetable snack food with a raw, dried vegetable coating. A total of 61 bags of Veggie Booty were ultimately tested in twelve states. Salmonella was isolated from thirteen of them. Eleven of the thirteen bags were positive for the outbreak strain of Salmonella Wandsworth, and one bag was positive for Salmonella Typhimurium and Enterobacter sakazakii. One bag also tested positive for Salmonella Kentucky, and Salmonella Haifa and Saintpaul were isolated from other bags.

2. Union International

The Union International Food outbreak sickened more than 79 people in Western states between December 2008 and April 2009; the majority of the illnesses were in California. Public health officials traced the outbreak to white pepper manufactured by Union International and sold under the brand names Uncle Chen and Lian How. Ultimately the company recalled more than 50 products, including spices, oils, and sauces, due to potential contamination with Salmonella.

3. Wholesome Spice Company and Overseas Spice

This outbreak and recall is, of course, still going on.  According to the CDC just days ago, 238 individuals infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Montevideo, which displays either of two closely related pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns, have been reported from 44 states and District of Columbia since July 1, 2009.  Epidemiological investigation showed that these 238 sick people all ate Daniele Inc salami products contaminated by salmonella.  Daniele used salmonella-contaminated pepper in the production of the various kinds of recalled salami. 

4. Today’s recall of Johnny’s brand French dip au jus powder?

Will the Johnny’s recall, announced today out of Tacoma, Washington, be another recall or outbreak to add to this list? The ingredient list for the recalled prodcut states that it contains: ‘MSG, Wheat, Soy & Milk; Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (corn, soy, wheat), yeast extract, salt, rice flour, monosodium glutamate, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (soy & cottonseed), caramel color, whey solids, non-fat milk solids, mono & diglycerides."  Only time will tell, hopefully, what happened at Johnny’s to prompt today’s recall.  Spices?  Certainly possible.

The historical trend:

These kinds of events naturally prompt the question why are we suddenly seeing outbreaks and recalls linked to pepper and other spices. Is this truly a new phenomenon; a new species of failure by food importers and producers? 
 

Continue Reading Spices: emerging threat or clear and present danger?

The CDC now counts 217 confirmed cases in the Salmonella montevideo outbreak linked to contaminated salami and pepper. 

As of 9:00 pm EST on February 8, 2010, a total of 217 individuals infected with a matching strain of Salmonella Montevideo have been reported from 44 states and District of Columbia since July 1, 2009. The

We are currently investigating the illnesses of 15 people potentially sickened by Salmonella-contaminated Salami.  There is the possibility, as well, that other products are contaminated by Salmonella montevideo or other strains of salmonella, yet we know virtually nothing about the whereabouts of the pepper.  We were contacted yesterday by a young woman from Washington sickened

It is Sunday, February 7, 2010; fifteen full days since Daniele Inc announced a recall of its salami products; and almost as long since the companies and investigating health authorities involved have either suspected or known that the ultimate source of illness in this large, and possibly growing outbreak, is black pepper.  But we, the