(Dec. 15) In a case of dueling press releases and a more antagonistic tone between U.S. and Mexican health offiicals, the question of exactly where green onions were contaminated with the hepatitis A virus was still shrouded in doubt the week of Dec. 8.

In a Dec. 9 statement, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reaffirmed that several recent hepatitis A virus outbreaks have been associated with eating raw or undercooked green onions.

The FDA said that investigations by state and local health departments, the Centers for Disease Control and FDA have determined that the outbreaks in several states were caused by green onions traced to Mexico for the three outbreaks with completed traceback investigations.

However, Mexican officials issued a release Dec. 10 which it pointed out the FDA itself “admits the source of the contamination has not been established.”

Enrique Lobo, Mexico’s agricultural minister in Washington, D.C., said that in a meeting Dec. 8, FDA deputy commissioner Lester Crawford informed Javier Trujillo, Mexican Undersecretary of Food Safety and Quality, and other officials from Mexico and the U.S., that the joint Mexico/U.S. inspections conducted in the Mexican state of Baja California found no evidence that Mexico is the source of the hepatitis A contamination.

“Unfortunately, the FDA statement issued on Dec. 9 conveys a very different impression, and therefore further clarification is necessary,” he said.

Lobo stresses that the exact source of the contamination hasn’t been established in any of the outbreaks. He said Crawford also committed to joint inspections in the U.S. including facilities in California.