NewsChannel 11 sat down with the Lubbock Heath Department to learn more about this changing salmonella scare. They do suspect jalapeno or Serrano peppers but there's a twist. The strain of salmonella that is making people sick in Texas is a different strain than the one found by the Center for Disease Control in the peppers.
So what's making people sick? "They're not 100 percent sure," says Beckie Brawley, the Public Health Coordinator for the Lubbock Department of Health.
The cases of salmonella poisoning reported here in Lubbock and across Texas don't match the same strain of salmonella found in the peppers. So peppers may also not be the culprit. "Our recommendation would be air on the side of caution; because the CDC and the FDA are not 100 percent sure that it is the peppers."
And airing on the side of caution is exactly what some Lubbock restaurants are doing. We went to Garcia's on Slide Road to see how they're protecting their customers. "Everything from our rice to our meat contains fresh jalapenos, so therefore we pre-boil everything and then therefore we put it into our food," said Mona Espinoza, manager at Garcia's.
Espinoza says the pepper scare has even affected where they get their peppers from. "Our food supplier just notified us and told us that the only thing was they weren't able to sell us was fresh peppers. She said if you want fresh peppers you're going to have to get them from somewhere else," Espinoza said.
So they did just that. But to keep customers safe and happy, they follow strict guidelines to assure all bacteria, salmonella or otherwise, are killed. "We normally boil, say for instance we do 10 pounds of jalapenos, we boil it for 30 minutes. We're just doing it a little longer so we feel more secure that everything is taken care of," said Espinoza.
The Lubbock Health Department says if you're buying fresh peppers, as long as you wash, wash and wash again, you're greatly cutting down the risk of salmonella poisoning. Also if you buy pickled peppers or canned tomatoes, those will be salmonella free because of the canning process.