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Tomato Salmonella Victims Exceed 700

Jun 26, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

Salmonella tainted tomatoes have now sickened more than 700 people across the country.   According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Salmonella tomato outbreak now spans 34 states and the District of Columbia.  Because the CDC is continuing to receive reports of illnesses, the Salmonella outbreak is considered to be ongoing.  Consumers are still being warned to avoid raw red plum, red Roma, or round red tomatoes or any products containing them unless they are known to have come from a geographic area cleared of any connection to the outbreak.

According to the CDC, 707 cases of Salmonella St. Paul have been reported in the US between mid-April and June 13, 2008.   Texas has had been the hardest hit state, with 293 illnesses reported.  Other states affected by the outbreak include Arkansas (7 persons), Arizona (36), California (10), Colorado (5), Connecticut (4), Florida (1), Georgia (15), Idaho (3), Illinois (63), Indiana (11), Kansas (11), Kentucky (1), Maryland (25), Massachusetts (17), Michigan (4), Missouri (12), New Hampshire (1), Nevada (4), New Jersey (4), New Mexico (80), New York (18), North Carolina (5), Ohio (3), Oklahoma (17), Oregon (5), Pennsylvania (6), Rhode Island (3), Tennessee (6), Utah (2), Virginia (22), Vermont (1), Washington (5), Wisconsin (6), and the District of Columbia (1).

At least 76 people have been hospitalized, and the CDC says that Salmonella may have also contributed to the death of a Texas cancer patient.

Salmonella is a potentially deadly type of food poisoning, symptoms of which include fever, abdominal pain, nausea, gas and bloody diarrhea. Symptoms appear within 36 hours of exposure, and usually last four to seven days. In very severe cases, Salmonella can lead to kidney failure and other complications. Salmonella can be particularly dangerous for children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. Some victims of Salmonella will develop a disease called Reiter’s Syndrome, a difficult- to- treat condition that causes severe joint pain, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination. Reiter’s Syndrome can plague its victims for months or years, and can lead to chronic arthritis.

To avoid illness, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is advising consumers  to limit their tomato consumption to those that are not the likely source of this outbreak. These include cherry tomatoes; grape tomatoes; tomatoes sold with the vine still attached; tomatoes grown at home; and red plum, red Roma, and round red tomatoes from specific sources listed on the agency's website.

Consumers have also been advised too:

  • Refrigerate tomatoes within 2 hours or discard cut, peeled, or cooked tomatoes.
  • Avoid purchasing bruised or damaged tomatoes and discard any that appear spoiled.
  • Thoroughly wash all tomatoes under running water.
  • Keep tomatoes that will be consumed raw separate from raw meats, raw seafood, and raw produce items.
  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot water and soap when switching between types of food products.

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