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Tomato Salmonella Cases Jump to 383

Jun 19, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

The number of Salmonella cases linked to tainted tomatoes has jumped to 383, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  The CDC said that most of the 106 new illnesses reported this week occurred weeks ago, and were the result of better monitoring efforts.  However, the last reported illness occurred on June 5, and the agency said it still considers the Salmonella outbreak to be ongoing.

The CDC and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) have been tracking the tomato Salmonella outbreak since mid April.  Last week, the FDA warned consumers nationwide to avoid eating raw red plum, red Roma and red round tomatoes and products containing them.  Cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes and those sold with the vine have been deemed safe to eat.  Red plum, red Roma and red round tomatoes are safe if they are known to have come from geographic areas listed on the FDA’s website.

The outbreak now spans 30 states and the District of Columbia.  So far, states affected include:  Arkansas (2 persons), Arizona (26), California (8), Colorado (2), Connecticut (2), Florida (1), Georgia (8), Idaho (3), Illinois (34), Indiana (8), Kansas (9), Kentucky (1), Maryland (10), Michigan (3), Missouri (9), New Hampshire (1), New Mexico (70), New York (9), North Carolina (1), Ohio (3), Oklahoma (5), Oregon (4), Pennsylvania (2), Tennessee (4), Texas (131), Utah (2), Virginia (17), Vermont (1) Washington (1), Wisconsin (5), and the District of Columbia (1).

At least 48 people have been hospitalized, according to the CDC.  While no deaths have been officially attributed to the tomato Salmonella outbreak, the CDC said that the disease may have contributed to the death of a cancer patient in Texas.

The FDA is apparently no closer to identifying the source of the contaminated tomatoes.  Most produce in the United States is not tracked from the farm -- and that has made the job of finding the source of the current outbreak more difficult. The agency is still focusing on Mexico and parts of Florida as potential origins of the outbreak.  But yesterday, David Acheson, director of food safety for the FDA, conceded that the source might never be known.  

Health officials did say they are focusing on a cluster of nine illnesses that were traced back to a single geographic location.  According to the CDC, all nine victims ate at two outlets in the same restaurant chain. Citing confidentiality issues, the FDA would not name either the geographic are or the chain.  However, The Chicago Department of Public Health told the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday that it reported a cluster of nine Salmonella cases at Adobo Grill restaurants in two parts of the city.  The FDA would not comment on that report.


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