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FDA: Salmonella Source May Stay A Mystery

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, June 19, 2008 11:06 AM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Salmonella, Infectious Disease, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Toxic Substances, Foodborne Illness

The source of the salmonella tainted tomatoes may stay a mystery says the FDA.  



IMAGE SOURCE: ©iStockPhoto / author: Klaudia Steiner 


The source of tomatoes tainted with salmonella may remain a mystery, an FDA official said Wednesday.

“We may not ultimately know the farm where these came from,” Dr. David Acheson told reporters during a conference call. “I’m trying to be realistic.”

Dr. Acheson said they may never know which farm or packing house the salmonella emanated from because, “some trace-backs that we thought were looking pretty good have been falling apart.” He likens it to “a spider’s web of suppliers and distributors.”

The agency still will not name the location of or the name of the chain restaurant where a cluster of nine people were sickened after eating tomatoes.

Reporters asked and Dr. Acheson refused to confirm whether the cluster of nine is the same as the group of nine people reported to the Chicago Department of Public Health, who were reportedly sickened after eating at an Adobo Grill in Wicker Park and Old Town.

So far 383 have become sick from eating raw tomatoes contaminated with salmonella Saintpaul, a specific and rare strain of the bacteria.  

The contamination, which likely originated from one farm or packing facility, has now spread to 30 states. More cases are coming in as people know what to look for.

Salmonella sickness can show up days after eating raw tomatoes and can last one week. Symptoms include cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Immune compromised people, the very old, very young and very sick can be especially hard hit. Salmonella may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and can cause death.

Texas reports the most individuals sickened (131), followed by New Mexico (70), Illinois (34) and Arizona (26). At last count, at least 48 have been hospitalized.

The outbreak is far from contained and is considered ongoing.

The CDC warns consumers that raw tomatoes are often used in the preparation of fresh salsa, guacamole, and pico de gallo.

Meanwhile, tomatoes are making a comeback.

McDonalds says it plans to once again serve sliced tomatoes in its fast food. KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell will begin to supply restaurants with plum, and red round tomatoes grown in the areas the Food and Drug Administration has declared safe, including 38 states, some areas of northern Florida, and the District of Columbia.

Florida remains the likely source. That state is the country’s top tomato producer and was harvesting when the outbreak began in April. So far it’s been the hardest hit with more than $40 million in fruit that has had to be destroyed.

A health advisory posted by the FDA on June 7, warns that fresh Roma, plum and red round tomatoes could carry the salmonella Saintpaul bacteria.

Backyard grown tomatoes, cherry, grape and tomatoes on the vine have not been considered in the outbreak. #   

1 Comment

Anonymous User
Posted by linda
Friday, June 20, 2008 1:38 AM EST

Isn't the source of the contamination obvious? As of 6/19/2008, the CDC reports 131 cases in Texas, 70 in New Mexico, 26 in Arizona, but only 1 in Florida! Does it seem reasonable that if salmonella-infected tomatoes were grown in Florida, only 1 case of salmonella would be reported there? Further, the FDA cannot tell you that the infected tomatoes came from Mexico. The reason is that the trade agreement with Mexico contains a confidentiality agreement. Dr. David Acheson, the man at the FDA who is in charge of food safety, let that cat out of the bag when he appeared on CSPAN’s Washington Journal on 6/13/2008.

Comments for this article are closed.

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