Salmonella outbreak from tomatoes

June 4, 2008

An outbreak of salmonella food poisoning first linked to uncooked tomatoes has now been reported in nine states, U.S. health officials announced on Tuesday. Lab tests have confirmed at least 40 illnesses in Texas and New Mexico as the same type of salmonella. At least 17 have been reported hospitalized.

An investigation by Texas and New Mexico health authorities and the Indian Health Service tied those cases to uncooked large tomatoes.

Thirty people have become sick with the same Salmonella Saintpaul infection in Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Idaho, Illinois and Indiana. CDC investigators are looking into whether tomatoes were culprits there, too.

In Texas and New Mexico, raw large tomatoes — including Roma and red round tomatoes — were found to be a common factor in the 40 illnesses. But no farm, distributor or grocery chain has been identified as the main source, said Casey Barton Behravesh, a CDC epidemiologist working on the investigation.

“The specific type and source of tomatoes is under investigation,” she said.

Salmonella is a bacterial infection that lives in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals. The bacteria are 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.

Many people recover without treatment. However, severe infection and even death are possible. Infants, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are at greatest risk for severe infections.

In Texas and New Mexico, the patients ranged in age from 3 to 82. Of the 40 patients, 38 were interviewed. Most said they ate raw tomatoes from either stores or restaurants before becoming ill between April 23 and May 27.

Another 17 cases are under investigation in New Mexico, CDC officials said.

Update: See US tomato outbreak, the facts


8 Responses to “Salmonella outbreak from tomatoes”

  1. Andre Says:

    Can hardly believe that a tomato would uptake anything that is unhealthy. The plant would die instead. How these slamonella get into the tomato has to be after they were grown. Either in the field prior to harvest where they could have been sprayed with manure and the tomatoes were diseased and had a soft spot where bacteria could come in or else during and after pick up. And again, if they were diseased with a soft patch on it where bacteria could come in.
    Healthy tomatoes could not be contaminated and if they were on the surface, then washing them would have removed the bacteria.
    REally wonder if this not a criminal act, somehow or else it something else than the tomato that cause the salmonella poisoining.

  2. Andre Says:

    It is very rare that I do not eat my tomatoes raw on toast or as a veggie in the plate.
    In general, plants know what to uptake to stay healthy. If by chance they absorb an element that is detoriating, the plant dies or will not bear fruits

  3. casey Says:

    i have to think there’s more to the story… what kinds of tomatoes … organic or non-organic? GMO or non? (can Roma’s be GMO? or do they get new name when modified?).
    all tomatoes are not created equal. 🙂

    I think the industry will keep much of the info stuffed. i’m sure this outbreak is the result of human error. cheap, un-natural, corporate farming practices. contaminated manure, something like that. that’s just my guess.

  4. Scary stuff. I’m allergic
    to tomatos as it is, so I
    avoid them anyway. Every
    year, a new veggie seems
    to take the spotlight when
    something goes wrong…

    Green onions, spinach, now
    tomatoes. What’s next ?

  5. BOB Zormeier Says:

    Tomatos, if they are coming to the US by way of Mexico they may have come from China. Lets not foreget that they irregate with sewage. That is one way to get in the plants and rinsing will not remove it. That is why they have to be cooked. Wait until 2010 when China floods our market.

  6. annierichardson Says:

    Thanks Bob. Your comment made me wonder, what is the law on country of origin labeling? The standards are incredibly low. Here’s info staight from the USDA:
    “On May 13, 2002, the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, more commonly known as the 2002 Farm Bill, became law. One of its many provisions requires country of origin labeling (COOL) for beef, lamb, pork, fish, perishable agricultural commodities, and peanuts. On January 27, 2004, Public Law 108-199 delayed implementation of mandatory COOL for all covered commodities except wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish until September 30, 2006. On November 10, 2005, Public Law 109-97 delayed implementation of mandatory COOL for all covered commodities except wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish until September 30, 2008. As described in the legislation, program implementation is the responsibility of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.”

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