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CDC: Salmonella outbreak appears to be over

  • Story Highlights
  • Salmonella cases have been dropping since early July, CDC says
  • FDA says it's OK to eat raw serrano and jalapeņo peppers from Mexico
  • About 286 people were hospitalized from the salmonella Saintpaul strain
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that the salmonella outbreak that sickened about1,400 people across the country appears to be over.

Contaminated jalapeņo and serrano peppers, grown in Mexico, are no longer in circulation, the FDA said.

Contaminated jalapeņo and serrano peppers, grown in Mexico, are no longer in circulation, the FDA said.

"The number of reported cases has been dropping since early July," and the number has appeared to return to around the typical number of salmonella cases expected during this time of year, said Dr. Robert Tauxe, the deputy director of the CDC Division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases.

"There are some cases of this infection that occur every year," he said.

Initial results from a CDC and Food and Drug Administration investigation found that jalapeņo peppers appeared to be a major carrier of the bacteria, as were serrano peppers, Tauxe said. Tomatoes -- identified early in the outbreak as the culprit -- were still possibly a source, he said.

The FDA said the contaminated jalapeņo and serrano peppers, grown in Mexico, were no longer in circulation and said Thursday that it was lifting its advice to avoid eating raw jalapeņo and serrano peppers grown, harvested or packed in Mexico.

The agency had lifted its advice to consumers last month to avoid several types of tomatoes.

At least 286 people were hospitalized from the salmonella Saintpaul strain, which began in April, and it may have contributed to two deaths, Tauxe said.

"Most persons became ill in May, June and early July," he said.

The outbreak touched 43 states as well as Washington and Canada, Tauxe explained.

"This was a very large and complex outbreak," he said, noting that it was unusual to have two food carriers with the bacteria.

It was the largest foodborne outbreak -- based on confirmed cases -- in the last 10 years, the CDC said.

Investigators had traced a contaminated jalapeno pepper found in a Texas produce distribution firm to a farm in Tamaulipas, Mexico. They found contaminated serrano peppers and irrigation systems at another farm in that same region.

However, Dr. David Acheson of the FDA said they were not prepared to rule out the possibility that there were other sources.

"If you've got salmonella Saintpaul in a water supply on a farm, you've got to ask the question about how it got into the water, whether it was connected to canal systems -- the irrigation systems could have caused that contamination to go elsewhere," he said.

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