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FDA: Salmonellosis Outbreak in Certain Types of Tomatoes
Update on the Outbreak
Sample of an Outbreak Traceback Investigation Diagram
Frequently Asked Questions
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Information for State Regulatory Agencies New!
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CDC: Salmonella-tainted tomato illnesses reach 228
By LAURAN NEERGAARD June/12- 59 minutes ago
Source of Article:
WASHINGTON (AP) The toll from salmonella-tainted tomatoes has jumped to 228 illnesses. The government has learned of five dozen previously unknown cases and says it's possible the food poisoning contributed to the death of a cancer patient in Texas.
Six states that had escaped the outbreak so far have been added to the list Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New York, Tennessee and Vermont bringing the number of affected states to 23.
The Food and Drug Administration still hasn't pinpointed the source of the outbreak. And with the latest known illness striking on June 1, officials also aren't sure if all the tainted tomatoes are off the market.

FDA: Florida, Mexico suspects in tomato outbreak

Workers stand with crates of tomatoes at the Central de Abastos market in Mexico City, Thursday, June 12, 2008. Export-quality tomatoes labeled "Ready to Eat" in English flooded Mexico City markets on Thursday after a salmonella scare in the U.S. stopped them from crossing the border. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
WASHINGTON -- Parts of Florida and Mexico were supplying "the vast majority" of tomatoes sold when the salmonella outbreak began in April and thus remain leading suspects, the Food and Drug Administration said Friday.
But the FDA hasn't narrowed its hunt to just those two places, said Dr. David Acheson, the agency's food safety chief.
"The logical assumption would be that Florida or Mexico are the most likely source" because of the outbreak's timing, he told The Associated Press. "But we have not simply shifted the focus to those two places. ... It's wide open for anybody not on that exclusion list."
The government counts 228 illnesses in 23 states linked to salmonella-tainted tomatoes, and is urging consumers nationwide to avoid raw red plum, red Roma or red round tomatoes unless they were grown in specific states or countries that FDA has cleared of suspicion. Check FDA's Web site - - for an updated list. Also safe are grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached.
The northern part of Florida is on that safe-to-eat list, while counties in the central and southern part haven't yet been cleared, Acheson said.
Some of the sick ate tomatoes bought at supermarkets and fixed at home, while others ate them in restaurants. Among the clues FDA is pursuing: Nine people who became sick after eating at one restaurant chain, which might help pin down tomato suppliers. Acheson wouldn't name the restaurant or its location Friday because it's part of an open investigation.
In Ohio on Friday night, health officials said they have identified three cases of salmonella poisoning, the first cases in the state linked to tainted tomatoes. And Maryland officials confirmed that state's first case of salmonella linked to the tomatoes.

FDA still hunting source of salmonella in tomatoes
AP Medical Writer / June 11, 2008
WASHINGTON Federal health officials haven't yet traced the source of salmonella-tainted tomatoes but, amid an outcry from farmers, are clearing innocent crops as fast as possible.
more stories like this"We're getting very close" to identifying the outbreak's source, Dr. David Acheson of the Food and Drug Administration told reporters Wednesday.
The outbreak, which has sickened 167 people in 17 states since April, is not over even though it has been two weeks since the last confirmed case of a person falling ill, said Dr. Ian Williams of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's because state and local health departments still are investigating possibly more recent infections.
The FDA has warned consumers against eating certain raw tomatoes: red plum, red Roma or round. Grape and cherry tomatoes or tomatoes still attached to the vine aren't linked to the illnesses.
Also ruled safe are tomatoes from more than 30 states or countries, including part but not all of major producer Florida, where some counties have been cleared but not others. The FDA can rule out as suspects farms and distributors that weren't harvesting or selling when the outbreak began. It is directing consumers to its Web site for updated lists of safe regions.

State agriculture commissioners from the Southeast, meeting in Kentucky, blasted the FDA for harming the sale of untainted crops.
"The FDA needs to work with the states to pinpoint the source of the outbreak and eradicate it without unnecessarily harming producers whose products are not affected by the outbreak," Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer said.The FDA vigorously defended its consumer-protection warnings.
"We have gone overboard to try to inform consumers which tomatoes were not part of this outbreak," Acheson said.
It takes a long time to even tell an outbreak has begun, much less solve it. People with food poisoning don't always go to the doctor, or have a stool sample analyzed -- and when they do, getting laboratory test results can take two to three weeks. Then health officials must spot a pattern of illness.

Health officials in New Mexico were first to alert the CDC to a brewing problem on May 22. They had a cluster of salmonella cases, including seven of a rare subtype called Salmonella Saintpaul. The next day, New Mexico officials posted to a government database called PulseNet these cases' genetic fingerprint, allowing the CDC to check whether this same strain of Saintpaul was infecting people elsewhere.
It was, in Texas and other states, with the first illness dating back to April 16, Williams said. CDC then began the painstaking questioning of patients to see what they had in common. On May 30, FDA formally joined the investigation, and the next day established a link with tomatoes. Initial consumer warnings were aimed at a few states, until the FDA went national last weekend.
Salmonella sickens about 1.4 million people a year. But outbreaks aren't on the rise, although public attention may make it seem so, Acheson said.
"We don't want to stay quiet and have consumers get sick. The downside of that is consumers say, 'Oh, the system is in crisis,'" he said. "It's not getting worse."

Salmonella Tomato Update

Posted on June 10, 2008 by Salmonella Attorney
Source of Article:
According to the CDC, since mid-April, 167 persons infected with Salmonella Saintpaul with the same genetic fingerprint have been identified in 17 states: Arizona (12 persons), California (2), Colorado (1), Connecticut (1), Idaho (2), Illinois (27), Indiana (7), Kansas (5), Michigan (2), New Mexico (39), Oklahoma (3), Oregon (3), Texas (56), Utah (1), Virginia (2), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (3). These were identified because clinical laboratories in all states send Salmonella strains from ill persons to their State public health laboratory for characterization. Among the 73 persons who have been interviewed, illnesses began between April 16 and May 27, 2008. Patients range in age from 1 to 82 years; 49% are female. At least 23 persons were hospitalized.
I spoke with Mike Stobbe for his article: Why did food sellers treat tomatoes like hot potatoes?”
It's an expensive proposition to toss seemingly edible food, experts said. But McDonald's and others had good reason to pull the tomatoes, said Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who for 15 years has specialized in food-contamination cases.
"The dilemma is if they don't recall the tomatoes and someone gets sick, then they're going to really look foolish," he said.

How Do Tomatoes Get Salmonella?
From poop to produce.
By Ryan Hagen
Posted Friday, June 13, 2008, at 12:12 PM ET
Source of Article:
Tomatoes in a bleach bath
Federal health officials are still trying to pinpoint the source of the salmonella-tainted tomatoes that sickened at least 167 people in 17 states since April and claimed the life of a Texas cancer patient. How can salmonella, a bacterium that normally lives inside animal intestines, get on your tomatoes?
Manure, runoff, and wild animals. Livestock animals, especially when kept in large numbers in confined spaces, can contract salmonella and carry the bug without showing any symptoms at all. Infected cows, pigs, and chickens shed the bacteria in their waste, which is sometimes used to fertilize nearby fields. The heat generated when manure is composted kills off most, but not all, disease-causing bacteria.
Contaminated water supplies can also put salmonella on your tomatoes. Runoff from livestock pastures, or from leaky or overtopped waste lagoons at industrial farming sites, can dirty streams, groundwater, and other bodies of water farmers draw on for irrigation. According to an FDA investigation, that was the likely cause of a 2002 salmonella outbreak in imported Mexican cantaloupes.
Since salmonella can infect anything with an intestinal tract, wild animals can spread the bacteria onto crops through their own droppings or from fecal matter they track in from elsewhere. The 2006 outbreak of E. coli in spinach, for example, was traced to a pack of wandering wild boars. The swine had picked up tainted cow manure on their hooves before breaking through the fence of a nearby spinach field to graze.
Producers do rinse their harvest with chlorinated water to remove most of the harmful bacteria, but enough can be left to make you sick. If the skin of a tomato is punctured when the fruit is picked from the vine or when presliced for sale in a supermarket or restaurant, then bacteria get inside, and no amount of washing will make it safe to eat. This is partly why on-the-vine tomatoes have been exempt from this most recent salmonella scare.
Salmonella and E. coli poisoning used to be primarily associated with the consumption of undercooked meat. But that's changing, as produce-related outbreaks become more common and more widely publicized. In 1999, produce was responsible for 40 separate food poisoning incidents in the United States. In 2004, that number climbed to 86. There have been 13 major outbreaks involving tomatoes alone since 1990.
Why the shift? One factor is a lack of inspections of farms and packing plants by the Food and Drug Administration, which means that more contaminated produce slips into the market undetected. The U.S. Department of Agriculture inspects every meatpacking plant in the country each day, keeping close tabs on safety conditions. By contrast, the Food and Drug Administration, which is charged with regulating produce, might inspect a vegetable packing facility once a year, and the number of inspections is shrinking. In 1972, the FDA inspected 50,000 farms and plants. By 2006, that number had dwindled to 10,000. Meanwhile, having increasingly centralized packing plants means that crops from a single contaminated field can mingle with clean produce and be shipped across a wider swath of the country than ever before.
Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.
Explainer thanks Jeff Cronin of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Jaydee Hansen of the Center for Food Safety, Robert Martin of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, and Marion Nestle of New York University.

Better tracking needed
Tomato contamination reveals food safety gaps
Published: June 13, 2008 12:00AM
Source of Article:
The Great Tomato Panic of 2008 shows the high price to be paid for lapses in food safety. The tomatoes that are contaminated with a rare strain of the salmonella bacterium probably come from a single producer or area. But until the source of contamination is identified, to be on the safe side many people will avoid tomatoes altogether and the number of food-borne illnesses will mount. Consumers and producers share an interest in developing a better system of tracking tainted foods, particularly fresh produce.
Fresh produce, unlike packaged or processed foods, lacks a bar code that readily identifies its source. Because large-scale outbreaks of illness related to contaminated produce are relatively rare and seldom fatal, tracking systems like those the U.S. Department of Agriculture has developed for meat, poultry and eggs are lacking. Crops such as tomatoes are distributed nationally and even internationally. Batches from several sources may be mixed and sold in both groceries and restaurants.
The tracking problem is illustrated by the fact that the first tomato-related cases of salmonella were reported in mid-April. The search for the source began in May. The Centers for Disease Control issued its nationwide consumer alert on June 5, by which time 167 people had been sickened in 17 states — including three in Oregon. The actual number of salmonella cases is probably much higher, because some people affected by food poisoning cant or wont see a doctor.
The FDA has ruled out a long list of states, including California, as a source of the contamination (Oregons tomato crop is still ripening). But even if produce always carried place-of-origin labeling, many people would simply stop buying tomatoes. Only plum tomatoes or standard round slicing tomatoes are implicated, but all varieties will be suspect in many peoples minds. Cooked tomatoes are perfectly safe, but as The Register-Guards Tim Christie reported Thursday, salsa makers in Eugene are seeing signs of a slowdown in sales because of concerns about safety.

The FDA inaugurated a Tomato Safety Initiative last summer in response to 13 multistate salmonella outbreaks since 1990, most of them traced to Florida or Virginia. The initiative is sensibly oriented toward preventing salmonella contamination, which can occur when livestock is raised close to tomato crops or when water used for irrigation is tainted with animal waste. But prevention is of little use after contamination has occurred, and the FDAs efforts to ensure safe agricultural practices do not reach across national borders.

Legislation pending in Congress would give the USDA and the FDA greater power to issue mandatory food recalls. That power could be used effectively only in tandem with an effective system for tracking contamination to its source. The same proposal would create such a system, allowing contaminated foods to be removed without wiping out entire agricultural sectors by clearing their crops from the nations warehouses and store shelves. Nearly all tomatoes are safe — and growers and consumers alike need a faster and more reliable means of knowing which ones are not.

Salmonella scare hits salsa makers
Source of Article:
EUGENE, Ore. -- The outbreak of salmonella reports linked to fresh tomatoes has hurt Oregon salsa makers during their busy season.
The state has about 18 commercial producers, state officials say.
Most cook and sterilize their tomatoes, but even so the news about sick people and warnings about raw plum, Roma and round tomatoes has given some consumers pause.
"We've seen that already in orders for next week," said Lorin Haines, quality control supervisor for Emerald Valley Kitchen in Eugene, part of Seattle-based Monterey Gourmet Foods. "They're not what they should be for the Fourth of July."
Reser's Fine Foods in Beaverton sent about 50 letters to grocers explaining that its salsas don't contain raw tomatoes, said Steve Loehndorf, the company's technical director.
One salsa maker who uses fresh tomatoes stopped production for a week.
"What if the stores had to pull salsa off the shelves? I'd have to eat that." said owner Kathy Holiday of Katrina's Homemade Salsa in Phoenix. "This affects me financially big time. I rent a building. I have employees. ... I have a lot of bills to pay and I don't have the cash flow coming in."
She said she hoped to resume production Saturday with Florida tomatoes determined safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Oregon Department of Agriculture inspectors contacted producers to make sure they know where their tomatoes are coming from and that they are aware of federal recommendations, said Jim Postlewait of the department's food safety division.
Restaurants and groceries also have seen the effects.
Co-owner Samuel Recinos has posted a letter at Plaza Latina in Eugene telling customers of the Mexican grocery and taqueria that the fresh salsa is safe, but sales have slowed.
"It's hard to convince people," he said.
Erin Pelayo of Chapala's, which operates two restaurants in Eugene, said her business usually makes about 96 gallons of fresh salsa every other day using raw tomatoes, but has decided for the time being to cook the tomatoes.
"It won't taste as fresh," she said.
"We'll do this for protection, and when the scare goes away, we'll go to all fresh ingredients," she said.
------Information from: The Register-Guard,

Salmonella SaintPaul Tomatoes Grown in One Place
Posted on June 13, 2008 by Bill Marler
Source of Article:
In a press briefing today, David Acheson, M.D., the FDA's associate commissioner for foods (a.k.a., “Food Czar”), said that evidence available thus far suggests that a single geographic region (e.g., Mexico or Florida) is the source of Salmonella SaintPaul that has contaminated tomatoes and resulted in 228 cases of salmonellosis in 23 states. Dr. Acheson said, tha the "unique genetic fingerprint" of the salmonella strain under investigation makes it highly unlikely that the contaminant will be found in more than one locale. However, the FDA still has not traced the pathogen back to that single source, although he said the most likely regions were central and southern Florida and Mexico.
If I were Food Czar, I would ask the following questions:
1. Why did it take the CDC so long to figure out there was a tomato outbreak?
2. Why does it take so long for FDA to figure out where the tainted-tomatoes originated?
3. What if this was a bio-terrorism case instead of a likely food-handling error?

Salmonella: Trickier Than We Imagined
Source of Article:
ScienceDaily (Jun. 13, 2008) — Salmonella is serving up a surprise not only for tomato lovers around the country but also for scientists who study the rod-shaped bacterium that causes misery for millions of people.
This scanning electron micrograph (SEM) depicts four highly magnified rod-shaped, motile, Gram-negative Salmonella infantis bacteria, which are attached. (Credit: Janice Carr)
In research published June 4 in the online journal PloS One, researchers say they've identified a molecular trick that may explain part of the bacteria's fierceness. A team from the University of Rochester Medical Center has identified a protein that allows the bacteria to maintain a low profile in the body, giving the bacteria crucial time to quietly gain a foothold in an organism before the immune system is roused to fight the invader.
"Inflammation immediately after a bacterial infection occurs helps the body fight off bugs like Salmonella quickly," said Jun Sun, Ph.D., the leader of the team and assistant professor of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. "But it may be that Salmonella is especially equipped with tools to allow it to evade the immune system early on, growing quietly and then really making the host quite ill. Salmonella is trickier than we imagined."

Sun's team found that a virulence protein known as AvrA dampens the inflammatory response. That helps the bacteria avoid the wrath of the immune system and gives the infection crucial time to grow and develop before it needs to expend energy to fight off immune cells like neutrophils, which would attack the intruder more quickly if the bacteria attacked the body in a more clear-cut fashion.
"AvrA allows Salmonella to make peace with you, buying the bacteria a little time to survive in the body," said Sun. "That's bad news for the body, because then the bacteria spreads. AvrA allows the bacteria to do harm in the body without the body realizing it. Bacteria have been evolving for millions of years. That gives them some tricks that perhaps we don't understand yet."
AvrA is one of several proteins in Salmonella that affect cells in the wall of the intestines and stomach known as epithelial cells. These cells link up tightly together thanks to molecules known as tight junction proteins, which form an elaborate barrier to keep molecules and substances in or out of the colon. The bacterium employs several proteins enabling it to loosen these junctions, effectively breaking up the barrier and making the body vulnerable to the infection.
While several of Salmonella's proteins allow it to loosen up and punch through this latticework, Sun's team unexpectedly found that AvrA allows the bacteria to maintain these tight junctions. This ability reduces the body's inflammatory response and allows the bacteria to avoid detection by the immune system for some time, enabling the bacteria to survive in the host. The severe symptoms of infection, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps, typically hit anywhere from 8 to 72 hours after initial exposure to the bug.
"It's a surprising finding, which is why we've repeated our studies many times and done tests in different experimental models," said Sun, whose team studied the phenomenon in the laboratory, in mice, and in cultured human cells.
AvrA is one of several virulence proteins that Salmonella has at its disposal, using syringe-like molecular machinery to shoot toxins and proteins into cells just seconds after its first encounter with a cell in the small or large intestine. The protein is especially adept at functioning in low-acid locales like the gut and bears close resemblance to a virulence protein known as YopJ that is active in Yersinia -- the bug that caused the Black Plague.
Sun is one of several scientists who have shown that AvrA reduces inflammation in the body, acting to some degree like new arthritis medications by reducing the activity of an inflammatory molecule known as NF-Kappa B.
There are thousands of types of the bug. Sun studied Salmonella Typhimurium, one of the two most common types; that bacterium and Salmonella enteritidis together cause more than half the Salmonella illnesses seen in people. While the current outbreak in tomato involves a much more rare form, Salmonella saintpaul, Sun says that the AvrA gene is in more than 80 percent of Salmonella types overall, including the "saintpaul" variety.
Other researchers working on the project, which was funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, include Anne Liao, Yun Zhao, and Yinglin Xia of the University of Rochester; Elaine Petrof of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario; and Erika Claud of the University of Chicago. Adapted from materials provided by University of Rochester Medical Center.
Need to cite this story in your essay, paper, or report? Use one of the following formats:

MLA University of Rochester Medical Center (2008, June 13). Salmonella: Trickier Than We Imagined. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 13, 2008, from­ /releases/2008/06/080613104801.htm

Burger King begins to restock tomatoes after scare
By The Associated Press 20 hours ago
Source of Article:
MIAMI (AP) — Burger King Holdings Inc. said Thursday that some of its restaurants began receiving new shipments of tomatoes after a food poisoning scare forced the company to pull the produce nationwide.
The tomato shipments were expected to start Thursday at some of its locations, but company spokesman Denise Wilson said it could take weeks to restock the entire chain.
Federal authorities still haven't determined the source of the illness outbreak. As of Thursday, the toll from salmonella-tainted tomatoes had jumped to 228 illnesses in 23 states.
The government has said it's possible the food poisoning also contributed to the death of a cancer patient in Texas.
Florida and five other states that had escaped the outbreak so far were added to the affected list Thursday.
McDonald's Corp., the world's largest hamburger chain based in Oak Brook, Ill., said the company would continue to avoid serving sliced tomatoes on its sandwiches until it's able to source tomatoes that meet its food safety and quality standards and until there are enough to supply the whole chain.

Tomato CSI - Much of Florida Cleared - Mexico on the Block?
Posted on June 11, 2008 by Salmonella Attorney
Source of Article:
I also had a nice chat with Susan Salisbury of the Palm Beach Post Staff Writer how the “Tomato scare unlikely to alter laws.”
The salmonella outbreak that has sickened at least 167 people in 17 states isn't bad enough to generate national food-safety laws, said a leading lawyer specializing in food-borne illness cases.
"It is going to take, unfortunately, an outbreak like the Jack in the Box outbreak in 1993, where you had 600 people sick and four little kids die," said Bill Marler, a Seattle lawyer.
The current outbreak, which dates to mid-April, probably is larger than is being reported, he said.
"For every person they are counting, there are about 40 other people who got sick that they are not counting," Marler said. "This outbreak is a lot bigger than 167 people. It is 40 times that number."
The FDA recommends consuming raw red plum, raw red Roma, or raw red round tomatoes only if grown and harvested from the following areas that HAVE NOT BEEN ASSOCIATED WITH THE OUTBREAK:
Florida (counties of: Jackson, Gadsden, Leon, Jefferson, Madison, Suwannee, Hamilton, Hillsborough, Polk, Manatee, Hardee, DeSoto, Sarasota, Highlands, Pasco, Sumter, Citrus, Hernando, Charlotte)*
New Jersey
New York
North Carolina
South Carolina
West Virginia
Dominican Republic
Puerto Rico

FDA expands warning about three types of tomatoes
June 11, 2008
Source of Article:
The Food and Drug Administration expanded its nationwide warning about raw tomatoes linked to a salmonella food-poisoning outbreak: red plum, red Roma, and red round tomatoes. The FDA advises retailers, restaurants, and other foodservice operators not to offer such raw tomatoes unless they are definitely from sources not associated with the outbreak. The precise cause of the outbreak is being investigated but, at present, remains unknown.
The FDA first issued warnings about the outbreak in Texas and New Mexico on June 3, then expanded warnings during the past weekend and this week. In response, major restaurant and retail chains promptly began voluntarily removing these types of tomatoes from their shelves and kitchens.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since mid-April at least 145 cases of
salmonella food poisoning and 23 hospitalizations have been reported in these states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. The death of a 67-year-old man in Texas is also thought to be linked to the outbreak: a Houston health department spokesperson told the Houston Chronicle that, although he was being treated for cancer, salmonella was a contributing factor. The man was hospitalized after eating a food condiment that includes diced, uncooked tomatoes.
A bacteria that lives in the intestinal tracts of humans and animals, salmonella is usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal feces. Most infected people suffer fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps starting 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness tends to last four to seven days.
The following types of tomatoes are not included in the current FDA warning: cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine still attached, and tomatoes grown at home. Information about the outbreak, including an updated list of states reporting cases of salmonella food poisoning and recommended precautions, is located at

Salmonella Tomato Probe Getting Close to Source, FDA Says
Date Published: Wednesday, June 11th, 2008
Source of Article:
Federal regulators are said to be getting closer to determining the origin of a Salmonella outbreak linked to raw tomatoes. Earlier this week, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers nationwide to avoid eating raw red plum, red Roma and red round tomatoes and products containing them. The tomatoes have been linked to 167 cases of Salmonella poisoning in 17 states, and may be implicated in the death of a Texas cancer patient.
Since the outbreak began in mid-April, the FDA has been trying to pinpoint exactly where the Salmonella-tainted tomatoes came from. The agency has already deemed Cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes and those sold with the vine as safe to eat. The FDA also said that tomatoes from growers in Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Belgium, Canada, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Israel, the Netherlands and Puerto Rico.
But there is no word yet on where the Salmonella tomatoes came from, though the FDA says it is making progress in the investigation. We are getting closer to identifying the source or sources,” Julie Zawisza, a spokeswoman for the FDA said late Tuesday.
The FDA has confirmed the same strain of Salmonella - St. Paul - in 167 victims; however, most experts agree the true number of people affected by outbreak is probably higher. Some estimates say that only 1 in 38 cases of Salmonella are ever reported. Twenty-three outbreak victims have been hospitalized, and Salmonella has been listed as contributing to the death of a cancer patient in Texas. The man apparently contracted Salmonella from pico de gallo he ate at a Mexican restaurant.
One of the things making the tomato Salmonella investigation so difficult is logistics. Fresh produce increasingly comes from far-away states and even far-away countries, which is why contaminations increasingly crop up across the country. Before the advent of globalization, food poisoning outbreaks from fruits and vegetable were usually isolated to geographic areas near were the tainted food was grown.
Even though there is wide consensus that federal regulators need to develop new rules to insure the safety of a an increasingly global food supply, little has been done on that front. In November the FDA released a “food protection plan,” but the Bush administration did not ask for the money to finance parts of it until Monday night. Following news of the tomato Salmonella outbreak, the administration amended the FDAs proposed budget, and is now asking Congress for an additional $275 million for next year, $125 million of which would go to food protection. At least one lawmaker, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), has likened the Administrations slow response to food safety as criminal negligence.”

Meanwhile, while the Bush Administration has been dragging its feet on FDA funding, Americans are enduring yet another food poisoning scare. While recent outbreaks of food borne illness have been linked to everything from peanut butter to fresh spinach, raw tomatoes are one of the most frequent culprits. According to the Centers for Disease Control, since 1990, there have been 13 multi-state outbreaks of Salmonella poisoning related to tomatoes.

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