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Salmonella Prompts Pepper Recall

Cal Fresco of Buena Park, CA, is recalling fresh jalapeño and serrano chili peppers, sold unlabeled in bulk in the U.S. and Canada, after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said a random sample tested positive for Salmonella.

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The company’s recall announcement in the U.S. came one day after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency warned the public not to consume certain jalapeno peppers because they might be contaminated with Salmonella.

No illnesses have been reported to date, according to Cal Fresco. In its news release, the company said it is working voluntarily with the FDA and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to coordinate the recall and try to determine the source of the contamination. 

The Jalapeño Recall

Cal Fresco said the jalapeño recall involves about 18,500 pounds of peppers imported from Mexico — lot 205610 — distributed to retail stores in California, Oregon, Washington, Texas and Canada between Dec. 3 and Dec. 5, 2011.

The jalapeño peppers were shipped in 10- and 25-pound cases under the Cal Fresco brand and in 40-pound cases under the Grower Alliance label. The product is typically sold at the retail level in bulk by weight and thus has no retail packaging.

Cal Fresco said it has notified all retail suppliers that received the potentially contaminated lot and directed them to immediately remove and destroy any remaining peppers in their inventories.

Cal Fresco said the USDA conducted the random sampling on Dec. 12, 2011. After being notified of the potential problem, the company said it was able to “quickly identify” the supplier of the peppers, which originated in Mexico, via its recall and traceability program. It said distribution of all produce has been halted from this unnamed supplier. 

Cal Fresco advised U.S. consumers who purchased jalapeño peppers between Dec. 3 and Dec. 21 to contact the store where the peppers were purchased and ask if it sold the recalled product. If so, the company said, consumers should discard the peppers or return them to that store for a refund.

In Canada, the government said the peppers were sold unlabeled in bulk at Safeway stores and various independent grocery stores in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Yukon, from Dec. 3 to 20.

They were also sold unlabeled from bulk or in 4.5 kg Cal Fresco brand cases at Loblaws banners (Extra Foods, No Frills, Real Canadian Wholesale Club, Shop Easy, SuperValu, Real Canadian Superstore, Lucky Dollar and Your Independent Grocer) in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, from Dec. 3 to 20, 2011.

Canadian consumers who have jalapeño peppers have also been advised to check with the place of purchase to determine if they were from the affected lot.

The Serrano Peppers Recall

Cal Fresco said that based on information from the FDA and CDPH, the Serrano peppers were delivered to a retail distribution center in Spokane, WA on Dec. 8. The USDA’s random sampling was conducted Dec. 12 and those tests detected Salmonella contamination on some, but not all, of the peppers.

According to the company, the USDA Sample and Isolated Pathogen Information Report not only failed to disclose individual lot numbers, but the results of that report were not provided to Cal Fresco until Dec. 19. 

Cal Fresco said it has had to rely on  information provided by the FDA and CDPH to trace the contaminated peppers to their source and, based on that information, the potentially contaminated serrano peppers were part of lot number 205467, originating in Mexico. the company said it has stopped distributing produce from this supplier, which it did not identify, while the investigation into the source of the contamination is underway. 

The serrano peppers were distributed in Edmonton, Winnipeg and Vancouver, Canada, and in Southern California, Alaska, Washington and Dallas, Texas. The peppers were likely sold at the retail level in bulk by weight with no retail packaging. 

Cal Fresco said it has notified all retail suppliers who received the recalled serrano peppers and directed them to immediately remove and destroy any remaining peppers in their inventories.

The company advised consumers who purchased serrano peppers between Dec. 8 and Dec. 21 to contact the store and inquire if they had sold any from the recalled lot. If so, customers should discard the peppers or return them to that store for a refund.

Consumer questions may be directed to Cal Fresco at 714-690-7700 between 5 a.m. and 1 p.m. PST.

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