Black pepper supplied by New York’s Wholesome Spice to Daniele Inc. to coat its salami products was found by Rhode Island public health officials to contain the Salmonella Montevideo outbreak strain responsible for making at least 189 people sick in 40 states.

pepper3-featured.jpgBrooklyn-based Wholesome Spice produces and supplies meat packers and processors throughout the country with seasonings, spices, glazes, dips, and other key ingredients.  It no longer supplies Daniele Inc, which had to recall 1.24 million pounds of its ready-to-eat meat products due to the outbreak.

Daniele says it now plans to use a pepper supplier that irradiates its spices, a process that kills deadly bacteria.

However, Food Safety News has learned one of America’s best-known spice companies does not–as we previously reported–use irradiation.

“McCormick & Company, Inc. treats its black pepper to control pathogens using a proprietary steam sterilization system and other common treatment techniques,” says John. G. McCormick.

“The McCormick US Consumer Products Division does not irradiate any of its consumer products at present and has no plans to do so in the future,” McCormick, vice president for corporate communications and community relations, adds.  “Furthermore, product produced for our Industrial food customers is treated by the processes described above.  We will only send product out for irradiation if specifically directed to do so by that Industrial food customer (it is not a common request).”

Rhode Island’s Daniele Inc. found Salmonella in black pepper it was using, but the company did not specify whether it matched the Salmonella Montevideo strain associated with the outbreak.

“We got positive results for Salmonella, and the strain did match the national outbreak,” said Annemarie Beardsworth, Rhode Island Department of Health spokeswoman. “The one caveat is the sample was from an opened container of ground pepper. That means it’s the probable source of the outbreak. We do have samples from closed containers that are in the process of being tested.”

The fact that the sample came from a previously opened container means the pepper could have been contaminated at Daniele rather than at the facility where it was produced, she noted. “We’re pretty sure that it didn’t get contaminated at Daniele, but we need a positive sample from a closed container to be absolutely 100 percent sure,” she added.

A spokesman for Wholesome Spice said several days of tests have all proved negative there.  The company is waiting on other results.

The recall originally came under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) because it involved ready-to eat meats.  Now that the investigation is focused on the pepper, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is on the case, testing and tracing black pepper used in Daniele products.

“FDA is investigating the supply chain of the black pepper used in the recalled product and has collected and is currently analyzing black pepper samples as part of the joint investigation into the source of the outbreak,” said FDA’s Sebastian Cianci.

“To date all of the samples collected and analyzed by FDA have tested negative for Salmonella; however, sample collection and analysis continues,” he said.

Cianci said there have been no recent reports of illness associated with black pepper used in other products in the United States.