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Recalled Basil Added to List of Salmonella Suspects

Jul 14, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

Mexican grown basil has joined the growing list of suspects in a nationwide Salmonella outbreak that has reportedly sickened 1,090 people in 42 states and Canada, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Lucky Green Trading, Inc. of Garden Grove, California is recalling all of its Thai basil over concerns it is potentially contaminated with the Salmonella bacteria.  Lucky Green Thai Basil was distributed through retail stores as well as direct delivery to customers in Southern California, Arizona, and Nevada on June 30, 2008.  "The recall was as the result of a random testing by the FDA which revealed that the finished products contained the Salmonella," the FDA said in a statement.  Lucky Green Trading suspended distribution and importation of the Thai basil while it and the FDA continues the investigation.

Mexican Agriculture Ministry spokesman Marco Antonio Sifuentes said he was frustrated with the U.S. government's investigation.  "First tomatoes, then cilantro, then jalapeno, and now this?" Sifuentes told Reuters.  "They are not handling this right and as the agriculture ministry we are asking for a serious and responsible investigation—not sending out communiques without proof or scientific analysis."  Mexican agricultural officials said Mexico's tomatoes were free of Salmonella Saintpaul, the strain involved in the outbreak, and said the strain found in the basil may be different.  Meanwhile, the CDC said it had been frustrating locating the contamination source, partly because the contamination involves fresh products that would have been discarded by the time people actually fell ill.

Lucky Green Trading Thai basis was shipped in 14 pound cardboard cartons with 12 individual packages weighting approx.1.2 pounds each in clear, unmarked, plastic bags.  The exterior cartons were labeled "16 DE SEPTIEMBRE S/N SANTA ROSA TAPACHULA NAYARIT, C.P. 63731" "Thai Basil" and also had an attached sticker with Airway Bill #027 1947 0861.

Consumers who purchased basil should contact the store where they purchased the product to determine if their basil is the Thai basil involved in the recall. Consumers with questions may contact the company at (714) 554-9293.

Those who became ill reported having recently eaten raw tomatoes, fresh jalapeno peppers, and fresh cilantro.  "These items were commonly, though not always, consumed together, so that study could not determine which items caused the illnesses," the CDC said in a statement.  Some clusters can clearly be linked to jalapenos, the CDC said.  Two deaths have been linked to the outbreak, both elderly men in Texas.  The CDC says Salmonella accounts for 40,000 cases and 400 deaths annually in the United States alone.  Salmonella infection causes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection and most people recover after four to seven days.

Experts say foodborne disease outbreaks are difficult to trace since much produce is grown on large farms and processed and collected in central areas, then redistributed globally and nationally.  Disease-causing bacteria can get on or into food in the fields, during harvest and packaging for shipping, when it is prepared, or when it is served.


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