The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Salmonella in Spices Update

Salmonella in Spices Update

Food Safety Update

March 28, 2010

After years of Salmonella outbreaks in tomatoes, peanut butter, melons and peppers, spices join the ranks. As of March 16th, 2010, there have been 252 reported cases of Salmonella Montevideo sharing either of two closely related pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns. Preliminary analysis pointed to salami as the culprit, and a closer look indicated that the supply chain of black and red pepper supplied to Daniele International Inc. could be to blame.

Of the persons who have been interviewed thus far, illness began between July 4, 2009 and February 18, 2010. Those infected range in age from under one to 93 years, and 53% percent of them are male. Illnesses have been reported from 44 states and the District of Columbia. No deaths have been reported; 51 (26%) have been hospitalized.

After discovering that Salmonella was associated with its products, Daniele International Inc. recalled a variety of ready-to-eat Italian-style meats. A number of other spice products are now being recalled as well, including those manufactured by Mincing Overseas Spice Company and Wholesome Spice Company.

Since the majority of spices are grown overseas, regulating their safety is a huge challenge, and one that the FDA has struggled with for years. Also, the long shelf life of any spice ingredient can make it difficult to track contaminants, which can live in a dry spice environment for long periods of time. Irradiation, steam heating or fumigation can be extremely helpful in preventing bacteria growth here, but not all spice makers use these methods of prevention.

The FDA cannot currently require that spice makers do more to prevent contamination, but they are taking a closer look at how spices are handled from farm to table – and strongly encouraging spice makers to beef up safety measures. 

By creating a risk profile, the FDA hopes to capture the current state of knowledge about microbiological contaminants and filth issues related to spices, and many members of the spice industry have already agreed to provide the government with data. Depending on the findings, new rules may be created as a result.

Persons infected with Salmonella usually develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection, with the illness lasting four to seven days. Severe cases can even result in death. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to develop the illness after exposure. Antibiotic treatment may be necessary in certain cases.
For a full list of recent Salmonella outbreaks, including those associated with spices, visit: