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Tomatoes Possible Cause of Salmonella Outbreak

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, June 05, 2008 11:14 AM EST
Category: Protecting Your Family
Tags: salmonella, food poisoning


IMAGE SOURCE: ©iStockPhoto / author: Klaudia Steiner


Public health officials are trying to solve a mystery after 86 people in several states have fallen ill from Salmonella poisoning.

The common denominator in all of the cases is raw tomatoes.

The cases began in Texas and New Mexico and have all been from the Saintpaul strain of Salmonella, which is a rare form of the bacteria. Illnesses have been reported in five other states as well, but it is unknown if the cause is Salmonella Saintpaul.

There have been no deaths from the salmonella but several people have been hospitalized.

Salmonella poisoning can cause dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever. Symptoms usually begin within 12 to 72 hours of coming into contact with the bacteria. It can be a fatal illness in those with compromised immune systems, the elderly, and infants.

Salmonella bacteria live in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals and is transmitted to humans by foods containing animal feces or by foods contaminated by dirty human hands. The food may look and smell normal. Thorough cooking kills salmonella. 

"The specific type and source of tomatoes are under investigation. However, preliminary data suggest that raw red plum, red Roma, or round red tomatoes are the cause," the FDA said in a statement.

The cases were first reported in late April and appear to be growing. The FDA says that tomatoes grown at home and those that are sold on the vine, as well as grape and cherry tomatoes appear to be safe to eat.

The CDC has issued guidelines on handling tomatoes to reduce the risk of food poisoning. They include:

· Refrigerating tomatoes

· Discarding any that are cut, bruised or appear spoiled

· Wash tomatoes under running water

The other states included in the outbreak include Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Several grocery stores have pulled all of the suspect tomatoes from their shelves, including Whole Foods Market. It is unknown where the infected tomatoes came from or who distributed them.

The FDA, which is responsible for food safety, issued a release saying it "recognizes that the source of the contaminated tomatoes may be limited to a single grower or packer or tomatoes from a specific geographic area." #

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