Warning! FDA tells consumers nationwide not to eat certain raw red tomatoes
June 8, 2008
See also: US tomato outbreak, the facts
The Food and Drug Administration is expanding its warning to consumers nationwide that a salmonellosis outbreak has been linked to consumption of certain raw red plum, red Roma, and red round tomatoes, and products containing these raw, red tomatoes.
FDA recommends that consumers not eat raw red Roma, raw red plum, raw red round tomatoes, or products that contain these types of raw red tomatoes unless the tomatoes are from the sources listed below. If unsure of where tomatoes are grown or harvested, consumers are encouraged to contact the store where the tomato purchase was made. The FDA says consumers can continue to eat cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached, or tomatoes grown at home (we say if we don’t know where they came from, we’re not eating them).
On June 5 (after dozens of people had already become ill), FDA published a list of states, territories, and countries where tomatoes are grown and harvested which have not been associated with this outbreak. This updated list includes: Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Belgium, Canada, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Israel, Netherlands, and Puerto Rico. The list is available at www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/tomatoes.html#retailers.
FDA recommends that retailers, restaurateurs, and food service operators not offer for sale and service raw red Roma, raw red plum, and raw red round tomatoes unless they are from the sources listed above.
Since mid April, there have been 145 reported cases of salmonellosis caused by Salmonella Saintpaul nationwide, including at least 23 hospitalizations. States reporting illnesses linked to the outbreak include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. Salmonella Saintpaul is an uncommon type of Salmonella. Only 3 persons infected with this strain of Salmonella Saintpaul were identified in the country during the same period in 2007. The previous rarity of this strain and the distribution of illnesses in all U.S. regions suggest that the implicated tomatoes are distributed throughout much of the country.
Salmonella live in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals, including birds. Salmonella are usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal feces. Contaminated foods usually look and smell normal. Contaminated foods are often of animal origin, such as beef, poultry, milk, or eggs, but any food, including vegetables, may become contaminated. Thorough cooking kills Salmonella. Food may also become contaminated by the hands of an infected food handler who did not wash hands with soap after using the bathroom.
Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections particularly in young children, frail or elderly people, and those with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, the organism can get into the bloodstream and produce more severe illnesses. Consumers who have recently eaten raw tomatoes or foods containing raw tomatoes and are experiencing any of these symptoms should contact their health care provider. All Salmonella infections should be reported to state or local health authorities.
Customers everywhere are advised to:
- Refrigerate 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.