In 2008, nationwide investigations of a Salmonella serotype Saintpaul outbreak led first to consumer warnings for Roma and red round tomatoes, then later for jalapeño and serrano peppers. In New Mexico, where there were a large number of cases but no restaurant-based clusters, the NM Department of Health and the Indian Health Service participated with CDC in individual-level and household-level case-control studies of infections in New Mexico and the Navajo Nation. No food item was associated in the individual-level study. In the household-level study, households with an ill member were more likely to have had jalapeño peppers present during the exposure period and to have reported ever having serrano peppers in the household. This report illustrates the complexity of this investigation, the limitations of traditional individual-level case-control studies when vehicles of infection are ingredients or commonly eaten with other foods, and the added value of a household-level study.
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