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Salmonella Concerns Spark Green Paradise Basil Recall

Dec 21, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP

Basil is just the latest food subject to a recall amid Salmonella fears.  The basil recall involves some 5,500 pounds of basil grown in Mexico and sold in the United States under the "Green Paradise" label, a spokesman for the importer said Thursday.  The recalled basil was imported from a farm in Mexico’s southern Baja California region on December 5th and sold to food distributors in Southern California, Texas, and Illinois the next day, said Alberto Martinez, a spokesman for Los Angeles-based importer Top Line Specialty Produce.  The Southern California distributor sold the Salmonella tainted basil to restaurants and other food service customers, but it was unknown whether the other distributors sold to food service customers or retailers, he said.  No Salmonella illnesses have been reported in relation to the Green Paradise basil recall.

The basil recall was issued after U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors detected the possible Salmonella contamination during a random check when the basil passed over the Otay Mesa border crossing in to San Diego County, Martinez said.  Top Line continued to import basil and other herbs from the Green Paradise farm in the Los Cabos area where the potentially contaminated product was grown, processed, and bagged. When the FDA alerted the company about its inspection results on Tuesday, the company immediately stopped imports from that farm and issued its recall on Wednesday, Martinez said.

FDA spokeswoman Cathy McDermott said Top Line did not learn about the potential contamination until two weeks after the samples were taken as it took that long for the specimens to be analyzed and for the results to be reported.  The “Green Paradise”-brand basil affected by the recall was shipped in sets of 12 one-pound boxes marked with lot No. 1219.

Salmonella bacteria is usually found in food contaminated with animal feces and is a group of bacteria that passes from the feces of people or animals to other people or animals.  Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours following infection.  Many different kinds of illnesses can cause diarrhea, fever, or abdominal cramps and determining that Salmonella is the cause of the illness depends on laboratory tests that identify the bacteria in the stools of an infected person.  Once Salmonella has been identified, further testing can determine its specific type and which antibiotics could be used to treat it.

The illness lasts a week and most people recover without treatment; however, in some, diarrhea may be so severe that hospitalization is required.  In these cases, the infection may have spread from the intestines to the blood stream and to other body sites.  Without treatment—antibiotics—severe cases of Salmonella can result in death; however, some Salmonella bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, largely due to the use of antibiotics to promote the growth of feed animals.

A small number of persons infected with Salmonella will go on to develop pains in their joints, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination—a condition called Reiter's syndrome—which can last for months or years and can lead to chronic arthritis; antibiotic treatment does not make a difference in whether or not the person later develops arthritis.


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