Tests have shown that the same strain of salmonella that sickened more than 200 people in at least 42 states has been found in black pepper, but it's not clear if it's the only source of the outbreak.
Department of Health spokeswoman Annemarie Beardsworth said Wednesday that the results "strongly suggest" that black pepper is to blame for at least some of the illnesses.
Black pepper was used to coat salami at Daniele Inc., a meat company in Burrillville, Rhode Island. The company recalled more than 1 million pounds of salami last month after many of those who got sick reported they ate it.
But Beardsworth says about half the people sickened didn't eat any salami. She says federal officials are investigating whether any contaminated pepper was sold directly to consumers or used in prepared foods.