Mexico Criticizes US Salmonella Findings

AP, July 31, 2008

Mexican agriculture officials said Thursday that U.S. colleagues hunting for the source of a salmonella outbreak are rushing to a conclusion about finding the strain at a Mexican pepper farm.

The salmonella sample that one U.S. official called “a smoking gun” was taken from a water tank that had not been used for more than two months to irrigate crops, said the director of Mexico’s Farm Food Quality Service, Enrique Sanchez.

Sanchez told a news conference on Thursday that the tank held rain water and suggested that roaming cattle or other factors could have recently contaminated the tank with the same strain of salmonella that has sickened 1,300 people in the United States since June.

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Sanchez said the U.S. officials “totally lacked scientific evidence” to make such statements and said they had broken a confidentiality agreement by announcing findings before their investigation is complete.

“We’re eating this same produce in Mexico and we haven’t had any problems,” Sanchez said.

He suggested the FDA officials confused the source of the samples because the tainted water was found on a farm in the Tamaulipas state municipality of Hidalgo—not in Nuevo Leon as the FDA reported.

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Miguel Angel Toscano of Mexico’s Federal Commission for Protection against Health Risks said Mexican investigators also took samples from the soil, water and vegetables the FDA had tested and found salmonella in some of the samples taken in Tamaulipas. But he said more tests need to be done to determine the strain.

Previously, the FDA had traced a contaminated jalapeno pepper to another farm in Tamaulipas. Both farms shipped through a packing facility in Nuevo Leon, raising the possibility that contamination could have occurred there.

The FDA has advised consumers to avoid raw serrano and jalapeno peppers from Mexico and any foods that contain them.

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