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Costco Warns Members About Salmonella in Pepper

Costco Wholesale officials are warning that one lot of the store's ground black pepper may be contaminated with a rare strain of salmonella.
Image: A shopper loads items into her car after shopping at Costco Wholesale Club in Manassas, Virginia
A shopper loads items into her car after shopping at Costco Wholesale Club in Manassas, Virginia on Oct. 16, 2012. KAREN BLEIER / AFP - Getty Images file

Costco Wholesale is warning between 130,000 and 140,000 members not to use certain packages of the firm’s Kirkland Signature Coarse Ground Malabar Black Pepper because the spice might be contaminated with salmonella.

Craig Wilson, Costco’s vice president for food safety, said Thursday that the company was making automated phone calls as a precaution after federal Food and Drug Administration officials detected Salmonella Duisburg, a rare strain, in some pepper samples in Texas. The affected bottles of ground black pepper have a best before date of March 2017, he said.

Letters advising Costco consumers typically follow the calls, which are routine whenever the Issaquah, Washington-based company learns of a potential food recall. No illnesses have been linked to the pepper, Wilson said.

Spices have come under scrutiny recently after an FDA report indicated that nearly 7 percent of spices imported to the U.S. over a three-year period were contaminated with salmonella.

Testing of imported spices between 2007 and 2010 showed that they were twice as likely as other inspected foods to be tainted with the pathogen. More than 80 different types of salmonella were detected.

Spices have been linked to 14 known outbreaks around the world since 1973, the FDA reported, causing nearly 2,000 illnesses, including many in children. In 2009 and 2010, black and red pepper used in salami sickened 272 people in 44 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kirkland Signature Coarse Ground Malabar Black PepperCostco