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ASHEVILLE, NC (AP) — Health officials say the number of people sickened by salmonella from a soy product often used as a meat substitute has topped 80.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reports 83 cases of salmonella can be traced to a culture starter for tempeh sold to Smiling Hara Tempeh, which made the bean product in Candler.

Health officials say the bacteria is likely now being spread through person-to-person contact and the number of people getting sick in decreasing.

The Food and Drug Administration is still investigating where the starter culture for the tempeh was produced.

Health officials were surprised to learn the source of the outbreak because meat substitutes aren’t on their interview list.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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