Vietnam is not about to accept blame for the nationwide Salmonella Montevideo outbreak in the United States.

Do Ha Nam, chairman of Vietnam Pepper Association, says the Salmonella outbreak in the U.S. is probably due to “mistakes in the process by food producers.”

The outbreak is associated with Italian-style sausage products including salami produced by Rhode Island-based Daniele Inc.  Pepper was used to coat some of the ready-to-eat meat products.

Recent samples of black pepper collected by the Rhode Island Department of Health at Daniele International Inc. tested positive for Salmonella. One sample from an open container matched the outbreak strain.  The remaining supply of pepper testing positive for Salmonella has been voluntarily placed on hold by both of Daniele’s suppliers.

Those pepper suppliers are Mincing Oversees Spice and Wholesome Spice.  Both are believed to have imported fresh ground pepper from Vietnam.

As of last weekend, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta said there were 213 people infected with the Montevideo strain in 42 states and the District of Columbia.

It’s possible another Salmonella strain, Senftenberg, might be linked to Daniele’s meats.   The company has recalled 1.3 million pounds.

At least one state health department–California–has confirmed another strain may be involved.

In an update Monday, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it is actively investigating the supply chain of the black pepper used in the manufacturing of the recalled meat products to see if it poses a risk to consumers.

The agency has collected and is currently analyzing both domestic and imported black pepper samples. To date, all the samples collected and analyzed by the FDA have tested negative for Salmonella; however, testing continues.

Vietnam is where the fresh pepper supply chain begins.  According to the Vietnam Pepper Association,  the U.S. market accounts for about half the 135,000 tons it exports annually.  It says its highest quality pepper is bound for the U.S.

FDA says if it identifies a public health risk associated with black pepper, or any other product, the Agency will take the appropriate action necessary to protect the public’s health.

The recalled meat products have an extended shelf life up to one year. Therefore, recalled products may still be in grocery stores and in consumers’ homes, including in the freezer.  Consumers are advised to visit the USDA-FSIS web site for a list of the recalled products and labels to make sure they do not have any of them in their homes. If they do, consumers should throw the products away immediately.  

Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

Otherwise healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

Individuals having consumed any Italian sausage products and who may be experiencing these symptoms should contact a health professional immediately.