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Florida, Mexico Still On FDA Salmonella Radar

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, June 16, 2008 1:09 PM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Salmonella, Public Health, Food Safety, Toxic Substances

Red plum, red roma and red round tomatoes are the focus of salmonella investigation by the FDA.

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IMAGE SOURCE: Tomatoes, FDA

 

Tomatoes in New Mexico, Indiana, and one state in Mexico have been cleared as the source of a salmonella contamination that remains a mystery to FDA inspectors.  So far 228 have been sickened since April.

On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it was focusing its investigation on Florida and Mexico, the areas harvesting when the majority of people got sick beginning in April.  One grower or packer is the likely source, and Florida has been the source of a number of recent salmonella outbreaks.

Florida remains the only state that is on the FDA safe state list that is broken down by counties.

The latest from the federal agency is that 37states have now been cleared as the source. Puerto Rico, Israel, and Guatemala have also been cleared, as has Baja California, the first area in Mexico considered safe.

Mexican tomatoes are supposed to be imported into the U.S. only after they have been inspected by state agriculture officials. Mexico accounts for 84 percent of U.S. imports.

Mexican officials are complaining that the FDA is moving too slowly to determine the source of the contamination resulting in a slowdown of sales.  

Changes are coming to make future investigations easier. The Produce Marketing Association, an industry group, is encouraging growers to put a code on boxes being shipped that would help track the journey of a tomato from farm to supplier, to store and restaurant.

Country-of-origin labels, coming later this year, will help consumers identify what area their produce comes from. About half of produce already carries an origin label.

Newsweek reports that these salmonella outbreaks undermine consumer confidence and are fueling a return to locally grown produce.

Craig Minowa, with Organic Consumers Association, says farmer's markets are recording record sales this year. “With each incident, it's pushing people more and more to buy locally and from family farms," says Minowa.

Red plum, red roma and red round tomatoes are the source of the contamination. Tomatoes from your backyard, with a vine still on them, and cherry and grape tomatoes have been cleared.

On Friday, the FDA identified two restaurants as part of the same food chain that had a total of nine people sickened from the specific strain of salmonella, the Saintpaul strain.  However, FDA officials refused to name the restaurant or its location.

“The FDA ought to release the names. It is being irresponsible if it knows a source and is not revealing it,” Jaydee Hanson, a food policy analyst with the nonprofit, Center for Food Safety, tells IB News.

Hanson says if the agency is trying to protect industry over the public; it may have the opposite effect, by making consumers wary of all restaurants and grocery stores.

Hanson adds that the man with cancer who died and was found to be contaminated with Saintpaul, had some pico de gallo, made from tomatoes. 

“He is an example of the most vulnerable, someone with cancer, AIDS, a young child or old person. That describes about a quarter of the U.S. population," Hanson says.  #


1 Comment

Posted by Jack
Tuesday, June 17, 2008 11:52 AM EST

Track this recall at LINK information on the tomato's:

LINK /commonConsole/recallalert.asp?alert=NZ08F000533

LINK /commonConsole/recallalert.asp?alert=NZ08F000520

Comments for this article are closed.

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