August 2008
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FMA’s Wambles Re-emphasizes Safety of Alabama Produce


By Brooke Thorington

    With the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now saying jalapeno and serrano peppers — not tomatoes — are the culprits in the recent salmonella outbreak, the Alabama Farmers Market Authority (FMA) is re-emphasizing no produce grown in the state has been linked to the event.

"While I can’t guarantee there is not harmful bacteria in local produce, I can tell you the produce you buy at your local farmers market, grown by the producer, is the same produce he or she feeds their own family. That gives me the assurance I need regarding safety of their food," said FMA Director Don Wambles. He encouraged consumers concerned about food safety to Buy Fresh, Buy Local.

The FMA also recommended asking the producer when you purchase fresh fruits and vegetables if they grow their own produce. "You can learn about the variety and seasonality of produce you are purchasing when you communicate with the farmers who grew it," said Wambles. "You also build a trusting relationship with that farmer."

After a lengthy investigation, the FDA has determined fresh tomatoes now available in the domestic market are not associated with the current salmonella outbreak. As a result, the FDA removed its June 7 warning against eating certain types of raw red tomatoes. Alabama-grown produce, including tomatoes, were not linked to the outbreak.

The FDA, working with officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with state and local health departments, is continuing to follow epidemiological and other evidence showing raw jalapeño and serrano peppers now available in the domestic market may be linked to illnesses in this salmonella outbreak.

At this time, people in high-risk populations, like the elderly, infants and people with impaired immune systems, should avoid eating raw jalapeño and serrano peppers.