Growers in the Mexican state of Sonora estimate that they have suffered as much as US$250m in lost sales as a result of the US salmonella Saintpaul outbreak that was linked to everything from tomatoes to cilantro and peppers.

Despite the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now establishing Mexican-grown jalapeño and serrano peppers as the possible source of the contamination, the state’s Regional Union of Fruit and Vegetable Producers says false links have cost growers millions of dollars.

Union president Enrique Carrasco Gutiérrez told Notimex that the losses were registered despite the fact that the produce implicated with the outbreak, tomatoes and chiles, are not the principal fruit and vegetable products grown in the region.

Mr Carrasco Gutiérrez said that although the tomato, and in the case of Sonora, pepper alerts proved false, the continuation of the topic in the media has meant that the region’s growers have been unable to export their products.

He said that similar phytosanitary restrictions to exports to the US in 2005 severely affected producers in Sonora and caused considerable economic losses.

Meanwhile, pepper and tomato growers in the neighbouring state of Sinaloa are considering switching to cultivating maize and as a result of losses suffered from the US salmonella scare.

“It could be that we will change the crop to maize and other grains, but this will force many people away from the countryside,” Roberto Compeán, owner of Comercializadora Tochi told El Debate.

The FDA previously announced that contaminated samples of jalapeño and serrano peppers had been traced back to farms in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, although in the former case the sample was taken at a Texas packing facility.