Local News

Ag commissioner: N.C. peppers are safe

Posted July 23, 2008 5:19 p.m. EDT
Updated July 23, 2008 11:15 p.m. EDT

— Officials are trying to ease concerns about the safety of North Carolina peppers after the Food and Drug Administration warned buyers to avoid fresh jalapenos.

State Department of Agriculture spokesman Brian Long said state's farmers are already having enough trouble selling their produce, even though some growers haven't even pulled chilies from the vine.

“Yes, jalapenos have become a hot topic all of a sudden,” Franklin County jalapeno farmer John Volmer said.

As Volmer picked his peppers Wednesday, he said he is worried consumers will be scared away by the FDA's warning.

“The thing that concerns me is the extreme reaction to a relatively small discovery of salmonella,” Volmer said.

The FDA is trying to pinpoint the source of salmonella contamination that has sickened more than 1,200 people nationally. North Carolina produce was initially cleared, but the FDA hasn't yet provided a safe list for peppers.

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said state jalapenos are safe to eat. However, unless the FDA narrows its warning, North Carolina farmers could lose as much as $15 million.

"I don't want the federal government running farms out of business because of these types of recalls,” Troxler said.

Volmer agreed with Troxler, and wanted people to know that North Carolina jalapenos are salmonella free.

“These peppers are fine. They have no salmonella on them,” Volmer said.

North Carolina farmers grow about 1,000 acres of chili peppers. Agriculture officials plan to travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with FDA officials about clearing state jalapenos from the salmonella scare.