The Food and Drug Administration this week gave the all-clear to tomatoes but warned that some varieties of hot peppers were still suspect in a salmonella outbreak that has sickened 1,200 people in some 40 states and Canada. This news came as a relief to the beleaguered tomato industry, which was considered an early culprit in the scare that left victims with symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting and fevers. The FDA in early June warned consumers to avoid certain varieties of tomatoes, which reportedly cost the industry $100 million in lost sales even though investigators failed to find salmonella on any farms they checked. The FDA and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added jalapeño and serrano peppers as well as cilantro to the list of possible salmonella sources last week. These foods have not yet been cleared, although, so far, they have only recommended that vulnerable populations—infants, elderly persons and individuals with compromised immune systems—avoid them. According to the FDA, investigators have zeroed in on a pepper-packing outfit in Mexico that it believes may be responsible for at least a portion of the outbreak. The initial source of the contamination, however, has not been identified.

(Image: © iStockphoto/Skip ODonnell)