June 9, 2008: Tomatoes Linked To Salmonella Outbreak

On June 7, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that they are continuing to work with the FDA, Indian Health Service, and health officials from several states in an effort to solve an ongoing multistate outbreak of Salmonella serotype Saintpaul.  To date, a total of 145 persons suffering from Salmonella Saintpaul infection, have been linked to the outbreak.  At least 23 of the illnesses have resulted in hospitalization.

By comparing foods eaten by victims of the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak and individuals who are well, the New Mexico and Texas Departments of Health and the Indian Health Service identified raw tomatoes (Roma and round red) as the likely food poisoning culprit.

The 145 Salmonella Saintpaul cases have been reported since mid-April in 16 states: Arizona (12 persons), California (1), Colorado (1), Connecticut (1), Idaho (2), Illinois (17), Indiana (1), Kansas (3), New Mexico (39), Oklahoma (3), Oregon (2), Texas (56 persons), Utah (1), Virginia (2), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (3).

In contrast, for the same time period last year, the CDC reported:

Only 3 persons infected with this strain of Salmonella Saintpaul were identified in the country during the same [time] 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. Because of inherent delays in reporting and because many persons with Salmonella illness do not have a stool specimen tested, it is likely many more illnesses have occurred than those reported.

Symptoms of Salmonella food poisoning may include diarrhea (sometimes bloody), abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, and joint pain. Symptoms usually appear 12-72 hours after the ingestion of contaminated food. The illness usually lasts 4-7 days.  Your doctor can confirm a Salmonella diagnosis by culturing a stool sample for the presence of Salmonella bacteria. Infants, the elderly, and those with impaired immune systems are at greatest risk for complications due Salmonella infection.  To learn more, please visit our additional website www.foodpoisoning.com.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also provides the following advice for consumers:

At this time, FDA is advising U.S. 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 raw red Roma, red plum, and round red tomatoes from specific sources listed at: http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/tomatoes.html*. Consumers should be aware that raw tomatoes are often used in the preparation of fresh salsa, guacamole, and pico de gallo, are part of fillings for tortillas, and are used in many other dishes.

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.
The Law Firm of Eric Weinberg currently represents individuals who have been sickened in Salmonella food poisoning outbreaks nationwide. If you have a question concerning your legal rights, please call us toll free at 1-877-934-6274, or see Free Legal Case Evaluation. To learn more about our legal practice, please see Salmonella Lawyer.
For updated article, please see Salmonella Contaminated Tomatoes.