1.2M pounds of pepper-coated salami recalled

A Rhode Island sausage company has issued a recall of 1.2 million pounds of ready-to-eat pepper-coated salamis, sausages and other cured meats because they may be contaminated with salmonella, the Dept. of Agriculture announced this morning.

The company, Daniele International Inc., of Pascoag and Mapleville, R.I., has created a hotline for consumers with questions (888-345-4160).

“Our family business has been producing premium gourmet products for over 60 years,” said vice president of Sales Davide Dukcevich. “While we conduct further tests, our goal right now is to take prudent, proactive measures to do everything possible to remove any products that do not meet our high standards for quality and taste.”

The recall comes after six months of painstaking work by health officials at both the federal and state levels who have been trying to track down the cause of a national outbreak of a relatively common form of the disease, called Salmonella Montevideo. It was first reported in July and has thus far sickened 184 people in 38 states, leading to at least 35 hospitalizations but no deaths, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“To my knowledge, this is the longest continuously active investigation of a commercial product that’s been done,” says William Keene, a senior epidemiologist with Oregon’s Dept. of Public Health.

His staff first realized an outbreak was underway, but it was diffuse enough that pinpointing the cause was difficult. The CDC, USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service and the Food and Drug Administration all got involved, as well as dozens of state departments of health.

The break finally came when a cluster of cases turned up in Washington State, allowing health officials there to finger the salami as the culprit.

The CDC has posted a chart showing when people have been getting sick on its site, http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/montevideo/epi_curve.html.

Salmonella can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps between 12 and 72 hours after infection. The sickness usually lasts between four to seven days. Most people recover without treatment. However infants, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems can become severely ill.

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