State News

N.C. officials recall produce tainted with salmonella

Jalapeno peppers and avocados might be responsible for outbreaks of salmonella in North Carolina.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — After two positive salmonella tests from a Charlotte food distributor, state officials on Thursday announced a recall of jalapeno peppers and avocados distributed in North Carolina.

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has asked the food distributor to recall jalapeno peppers and Hass avocados it received from a specific Texas food-supply company.

Officials have also requested the Texas supplier, who has not been named, to recall all of the implicated products distributed in North Carolina.

Agriculture department spokesman Brian Long identified the Charlotte firm as El Campo Produce Inc. Long said it distributed to about 100 restaurants and a few small markets around the state in 25 counties.

The telephone at El Campo wasn't answered Thursday night.

"They have been very cooperative in this whole thing," Long said. "They have sold products to other food establishments around the state and what we're trying to determine is whether the firm out of Texas has worked with other restaurants or distributors directly in North Carolina."

The department’s Food and Drug Protection Division and the N.C. Division of Environmental Health staff are working to determine how many North Carolina food distributors, restaurants, grocery stores and other food-sellers received the produce.

The Hass avocados were shipped from Texas in boxes labeled “Frutas Finas de Tancitaro Hass Avocados, Produce of Mexico,” 60 count, with lot number HUE08160090889. The jalapenos were shipped in black, plastic crates weighing about 15 pounds and containing no brand name or other label.

State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said locally grown produce is not implicated in this contamination. In a statement, he stressed that North Carolina produce may be consumed with proper handling.

“We are working quickly and carefully with our state, local and federal partners in an attempt to solve this case,” Troxler said.

Once the food establishments have been identified, regional environmental health staff and other officials will conduct site visits to aid in the disposal of the product.

Officials said there's no immediate sign that the contamination matches the salmonella strain that has sickened 23 people in North Carolina and more than 1,200 people nationwide.

One week ago, health investigators converged on a Charlotte-area restaurant suspected of being a source of multiple salmonella illnesses. State food protection experts took 42 samples from the restaurant, including a variety of vegetables, fruits and spices.