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FDA: Expanded Salmonella Warning Covers Salsa

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, June 09, 2008 3:02 PM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Foodborne Illness, Salmonella, Public Health

Salmonella outbreaks expands, stores taking them off shelves. 



IMAGE SOURCE: ©iStockPhoto / author: Klaudia Steiner


It’s probably best to pass on tomatoes in your summer salad for awhile.

As a precaution, the FDA is warning retailers, restaurants and food chains not to sell or serve raw tomatoes because of a salmonella outbreak. As a result, Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. is removing tomatoes from its 512 stores across the Southeastern United States.

The store is also warning consumers who recently purchased tomatoes not to consume them. 

McDonalds and other chain restaurants are pulling certain types of tomatoes off the menu while the source of the contamination is still uncertain.

Chipolte Mexican Grill reportedly has haulted sales of salsa. Wal-Mart will refund customers for purchases of certain types of tomatoes.

The ongoing foodborne illness has been linked to certain types of tomatoes, raw red plum, red Roma, and round red tomatoes as well as products that contain these raw, red tomatoes.

Since mid-April there have been 145 reported cases of salmonellosis caused by Salmonella Saintpaul nationwide, including at least 23 hospitalizations.

Salmonella Saintpaul is an uncommon strain of Salmonella bacteria. There were only three cases of this strain of Salmonella in all of 2007, according to the CDC. Because the strain was so rare in the past, it's believe the contaminated tomatoes may have been distributed all over the U.S.

Avoid tomatoes that come from these states:  Arizona,California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington State, and Wisconsin.  A sticker on the tomato may tell you its origin. The grocery store may be able to source it for you.

The products that may contain these tomatoes is even broader and includes salsa, sliced tomatoes for hamburgers, guacamole, taco filling and pico de gallo. Unless you know that the tomatoes come from regions not covered by the outbreak, you are advised to avoid these foods as well.  

The symptoms of salmonella poisoning are diarrhea, cramps, fever, nausea and vomiting that may show up as long as 72 hours after ingestion and can last up to seven days.  These symptoms can be particularly serious in the young and very old, and anyone who has a weakened immune system.

Salmonella can get into the blood stream and be very serious. The bacteria come from animal feces.

But for those who can’t pass up the red fruit?  Larger tomatoes, such as the kind used in sauces, cherry and grape tomatoes, and those sold on the vine are not implicated in the outbreak. Neither are ones that come from your backyard.

Tomatoes grown in the following states are part of the approved regions and thought to be safe:  Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Belgium, Canada, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Israel, Netherlands and Puerto Rico.

This is not the first outbreak of salmonella tied to tomatoes. Over the last ten years, fresh tomatoes have been associated with a dozen outbreaks of foodborne illness that have made 1,840 people sick. 

The source of the contamination is still unknown. It could be a single grower, packer or region of the country.

The FDA is working with growers in Florida and Virginia to minimize risk factors for contamination on the farm. The point of production is where food contamination is most likely to occur.

The FDA’s Guide to Farm Investigations includes an epidemiologist to check workers' health and hygiene practices, meaning how readily available bathrooms are and how often the workers wash their hands.

The investigation also includes water experts to identify microbes from samples. Sanitation experts look at land contamination and water treatment systems. # 


Anonymous User
Posted by Joe Frankamon
Tuesday, June 10, 2008 12:20 AM EST

You have Arizona, California, (and a few others) listed as states to avoid and as states that are safe to eat.

Anonymous User
Posted by Pat Darby
Tuesday, June 10, 2008 10:19 PM EST

I recently bought vine tomatoes from Whole Foods. The clerk assured me that they were safe; but after reading the above, I think I will pass on them for awhile.

Jane Akre Injury Board Community Member
Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, June 10, 2008 11:23 PM EST

Hi Joe-

You are absolutely right about California being on both lists. Both the FDA and CDC have it listed on the Safe states and the states where there have been cases of salmonella ( 2 at last count).

FDA has not gotten back with a clarification as of yet, so stay tuned, this story does not seem to be going away. We'll work on an update.

BTW- I checked with a local Mexican place that I go to and they assured me thay had sourced tomatoes on the vine for their salsa. You are still safe there.... as well as with grape and cherry tomatoes.

Comments for this article are closed.

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