Laboratory testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has confirmed that samples of serrano pepper and irrigation water from a farm in Tamaulipas, Mexico, contain the salmonella strain responsible for the ongoing outbreak. Investigators found the same genetic fingerprint as the bacterium that has sickened more than 1,000 people.

Until further notice, the FDA is advising consumers to avoid raw serrano and raw jalapeño peppers from Mexico, as well as any foods that contain them (for example, fresh salsa). If in doubt, ask retailers or foodservice providers where their jalapeños and serranos peppers have been grown, harvested and packed.

Although the outbreak appears to have peaked, it’s important to reiterate that it’s ongoing. Cases of salmonella  continue to be reported—and the entire outbreak cannot be explained by the contamination found, according to the FDA.

The investigation has traced the origin of the involved pepper through complex distribution channels, as well as inspections and evaluations of farms and facilities in both the United States and Mexico. Inspectors collected and tested environmental and product samples, which led them to the Mexican packing facility and a particular farm. Fresh produce can become contaminated at any point along the supply chain: from the field or greenhouse where it’s grown to distribution points to food preparation in restaurants and homes.

Previously, FDA inspectors had collected a positive sample of jalapeño pepper from a produce-distribution center owned by Agricola Zaragosa in McAllen, Texas. The FDA will continue working to pinpoint where and how in the supply chain the first positive jalapeño sample became contaminated. It originated from a different farm in Mexico.

If laboratory results warrant, the FDA will provide additional cautions or warnings to protect consumer health. Fresh tomatoes, originally suspected of causing the outbreak, have been cleared.

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Photos courtesy of the FDA