Tomatoes, peppers, cilantro – worst foodborne outbreak in at least a decade
July 10, 2008
It started in April and since then 1017 persons infected with Salmonella Saintpaul with the same genetic fingerprint have been identified in 41 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada.The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alabama (2 persons), Arkansas (14), Arizona (49), California (9), Colorado (13), Connecticut (4), Florida (2), Georgia (24), Idaho (4), Illinois (100), Indiana (14), Iowa (2), Kansas (17), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (1), Maine (1), Maryland (29), Massachusetts (25), Michigan (8), Minnesota (15), Missouri (12), New Hampshire (4), Nevada (11), New Jersey (9), New Mexico (98), New York (28), North Carolina (10), Ohio (8), Oklahoma (24), Oregon (10), Pennsylvania (11), Rhode Island (3), South Carolina (2), Tennessee (8), Texas (384), Utah (2), Virginia (29), Vermont (2), Washington (11), West Virginia (1), Wisconsin (11), and the District of Columbia (1). Four ill persons are reported from Canada; three appear to have been infected while traveling in the United States. At least 203 people have been hospitalized, 2 people have died. The outbreak isn’t over, or even showing any sign of slowing — with about 25 to 40 cases being a reported a day for weeks now.
The toll far surpasses what had been considered the largest foodborne outbreak of the past decade, the 715 salmonella cases linked to peanut butter in 2006. In the mid-1990s, there were well over 1,000 cases of cyclospora linked to raspberries, and previous large outbreaks of salmonella from ice cream and milk.
The CDC acknowledges that for every case of salmonella confirmed to the government, there may be 30 to 40 others that go undiagnosed or unreported.
“The outbreak could actually be tens of thousands of people rather than 1,000 people,” agreed Caroline Smith DeWaal of the consumer advocacy Center for Science in the Public Interest. “It’s certainly a disturbing event to have this many illnesses spanning this many months.”
To make matters worse, no one is sure if the cause is tomatoes, peppers, cilantro or a combination of one or more.
Certain raw tomatoes — red round, plum and Roma — remain the chief suspect and the government stressed again today that consumers should avoid them unless they were harvested in areas “cleared of suspicion.” We are all left to try to figure out exactly what that means.
In a brilliant statement, FDA food safety chief Dr. David Acheson added: “It’s just been a spectacularly complicated and prolonged outbreak.” Thanks Captain Obvious.
For more information go to: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/saintpaul/
See also: US tomato outbreak, the facts