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Tomato-linked Salmonella outbreak spreads to 16 states

Guest Lisa Schnirring

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Guest Lisa Schnirring

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently warned consumers nationwide to avoid certain raw tomatoes as the number of people sickened in a nationwide Salmonella outbreak grew to 145 cases in 16 states.


The illnesses are linked to an unusual strain, Salmonella enterica serotype Saintpaul. The FDA, in a Jun 7 press release, warned consumers not to eat raw red plum, red Roma, or red round tomatoes, or products that contain any of those varieties, unless the growing areas are on a list posted on the agency's Web site.


The rarity of the strain and the involvement of so many regions suggest that the contaminated tomatoes were distributed throughout much of the country, the FDA said. During the same time frame last year, only three people in the United States had confirmed S Saintpaul infections.


Traceback studies conducted so far have indicated that tomatoes from 15 US and international growing areas are not associated with the outbreak. US states that have been cleared so far include Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Consumers who aren't sure where their tomatoes were grown or harvested should contact the store where they bought them.


The FDA repeated its previous statement that grape, cherry, vine-on, and home-grown tomatoes still appear safe to eat.


Most of the people who have been sickened in the outbreak were from Texas (56), New Mexico (39), Illinois (17), and Arizona (12), according to a Jun 7 statement from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The FDA's initial warning about the outbreak, on Jun 3, focused only on New Mexico and Texas, though cases in seven other states were being investigated. The organism typically causes fever and nonbloody diarrhea that resolves in a week.


Based on interviews with 73 people, illness onset dates ranged from Apr 16 to May 28. Ages ranged from 1 to 82 years, and 49% of the patients were female. At least 23 patients were hospitalized, but no deaths were reported.


The FDA urged retailers, restaurateurs, and food service operators not to use red Roma, plum, or round tomatoes unless they are from growing regions that don't appear to be the source of any tainted tomatoes.


Some restaurant chains are temporarily taking tomatoes off their menus. For example, McDonald's Corp. announced today that it would not serve sliced tomatoes on its hamburgers until the source of the contaminated tomatoes is determined, according to a report from the Associated Press.

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Guest LAW_*

FDA Warns Consumers Nationwide Not to Eat Certain Types of Raw Red Tomatoes


The Food and Drug Administration is expanding its warning to consumers nationwide that a salmonellosis outbreak has been linked to consumption of certain raw red plum, red Roma, and red round tomatoes, and products containing these raw, red tomatoes.


FDA recommends that consumers not eat raw red Roma, raw red plum, raw red round tomatoes, or products that contain these types of raw red tomatoes unless the tomatoes are from the sources listed below. If unsure of where tomatoes are grown or harvested, consumers are encouraged to contact the store where the tomato purchase was made. Consumers should continue to eat cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached, or tomatoes grown at home.


On June 5, using traceback and other distribution pattern information, FDA published a list of states, territories, and countries where tomatoes are grown and harvested which have not been associated with this outbreak. This updated list includes: Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Belgium, Canada, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Israel, Netherlands, and Puerto Rico. The list is available at www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/tomatoes.html#retailers. This list will be updated as more information becomes available.


FDA’s recommendation does not apply to the following tomatoes from any source: cherry, grape, and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached.


FDA recommends that retailers, restaurateurs, and food service operators not offer for sale and service raw red Roma, raw red plum, and raw red round tomatoes unless they are from the sources listed above. Cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached, may continue to be offered from any source.


Since mid April, there have been 145 reported cases of salmonellosis caused by Salmonella Saintpaul nationwide, including at least 23 hospitalizations. States reporting illnesses linked to the outbreak include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. Salmonella Saintpaul is an uncommon type of Salmonella.


Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections particularly in young children, frail or elderly people, and those with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, the organism can get into the bloodstream and produce more severe illnesses. Consumers who have recently eaten raw tomatoes or foods containing raw tomatoes and are experiencing any of these symptoms should contact their health care provider. All Salmonella infections should be reported to state or local health authorities.


FDA recognizes that the source of the contaminated tomatoes may be limited to a single grower or packer or tomatoes from a specific geographic area. FDA also recognizes that there are many tomato crops across the country and in foreign countries that will be ready for harvest or will become ready in the coming months. In order to ensure that consumers can continue to enjoy tomatoes that are safe to eat, FDA is working diligently with the states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Indian Health Service, and various food industry trade associations to quickly determine the source of the tomatoes associated with the outbreak

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Guest LAW_*

The FDA also recommends:


· Refrigerate within 2 hours or discard cut, peeled, or cooked tomatoes.

· Avoid purchasing bruised or damaged tomatoes and discard any that appear spoiled.

· Thoroughly wash all tomatoes under running water.

· Keep tomatoes that will be consumed raw separate from raw meats, raw seafood, and raw

produce items.

· Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot water and soap when

switching between types of food products.

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