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Salmonellosis Outbreak in Certain Types of Tomatoes
Update on the Outbreak
Sample of an Outbreak Traceback Investigation Diagram
Frequently Asked Questions
Advice for Retailers, Restaurateurs and Food Service Operators
Information for State Regulatory Agencies New!
Consumer Health Information
What Is FDA Doing?
Information About Salmonella
How Do I Report a Tomato Complaint?
tomato illnesses reach 228
By LAURAN NEERGAARD June/12- 59 minutes ago
Source of Article: http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5gTdemzWcpeDQ9QFeEyMaHk5U20GQD918OV602
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.
Mexico suspects in tomato outbreak
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
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
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 - http://www.fda.gov
- 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.
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
"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
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
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."
Posted on June 10, 2008 by Salmonella Attorney
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
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
"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
From poop to produce.
By Ryan Hagen
Posted Friday, June 13, 2008, at 12:12 PM ET
Source of Article: http://www.slate.com/id/2193474/
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
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
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 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.
Tomato contamination reveals food safety gaps
Published: June 13, 2008 12:00AM
Source of Article: http://www.registerguard.com/
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.
scare hits salsa makers
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Source of Article: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/366940_salsa14.html
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
"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, http://www.registerguard.com
SaintPaul Tomatoes Grown in One Place
Posted on June 13, 2008 by Bill Marler
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
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
3. What if this was a bio-terrorism case instead of a likely food-handling
Trickier Than We Imagined
Source of Article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080613104801.htm
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
"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
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
MLA University of Rochester
Medical Center (2008, June 13). Salmonella: Trickier Than We Imagined.
ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 13, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com
begins to restock tomatoes after scare
By The Associated Press 20 hours ago
Source of Article: http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5jNnC8_R5eglwGCWEi5fNBG4WrBXgD918RV980
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
Tomato CSI - Much
of Florida Cleared - Mexico on the Block?
Posted on June 11, 2008 by Salmonella Attorney
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
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)*
warning about three types of tomatoes
June 11, 2008
Source of Article: http://members.ift.org/IFT/Pubs/Newsletters/weekly/nl_061108.htm
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
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 http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/tomatoes.html
Tomato Probe Getting Close to Source, FDA Says
Date Published: Wednesday, June 11th, 2008
Source of Article: http://www.newsinferno.com/archives/3247
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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