Wash Your Tomatoes As Salmonella Strikes Again
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration revealed 57 reported cases of poisoning caused by an uncommon starnd of Salmonella bacteria called SaintPaul in Texas and New Mexico since late April. Illnesses were blamed on eating raw tomatoes.
Since late April, 40 persons infected with Salmonella Saintpaul with the same genetic fingerprint have been identified in Texas (21 persons) and New Mexico (19 persons). The New Mexico Department of Health is investigating 17 additional Salmonella Saintpaul illnesses. These were identified because clinical laboratories in all states send Salmonella strains from ill persons to their State public health laboratory for characterization. Among the 38 persons who have been interviewed, illnesses began between April 23 and May 27, 2008. Patients range in age from 3 to 82 years; 48% are female. At least 17 persons were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
People in 9 States Have Been Infected By Salmonella
About 30 more people became ill in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas and Utah. At least 17 people needed hospitalization, but no deaths have been reported.
"Our preliminary data is showing that the people who became sick in New Mexico and Texas ate raw tomatoes, and that's their likely source of this illness," an epidemiologist with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
"The investigation in the other states is ongoing right now. We are definitely looking into their tomato exposures as well as other exposures to try to determine if they're linked with this outbreak in New Mexico and Texas," she added.
"The specific type and source of tomatoes are under investigation. However, preliminary data suggest that raw red plum, red Roma, or round red tomatoes are the cause," the FDA said.
Salmonella bacteria often cause food-borne illnesses accompanied by vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pains and fever.
Clinical features of Salmonella Infection
Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12-72 hours after infection. Infection is usually diagnosed by culture of a stool sample. The illness usually lasts 4 - 7 days. Although most people recover without treatment, severe infections may occur. Infants, elderly persons, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness. When severe infection occurs, Salmonella may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other body sites, and can cause death. In these severe cases, antibiotic treatment may be necessary.
Advice to consumers
* In New Mexico and Texas, until the source of the implicated tomatoes is determined,
o persons with increased risk of severe infection, including infants, elderly persons, and those with impaired immune systems, should not eat raw Roma or red round tomatoes other than those sold attached to the vine or grown at home, and
o persons who want to reduce their risk of Salmonella infection can avoid consuming raw Roma or red round tomatoes other than those sold attached to the vine or grown at home.
* Avoid purchasing bruised or damaged tomatoes and discard any that appear spoiled.
* Thoroughly wash all tomatoes under running water.
* Refrigerate within 2 hours or discard cut, peeled, or cooked tomatoes.
* 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.
You can check the CDC and FDA websites for updates on this investigation and changes in recommendations.
More information about Salmonella and this investigation can be found at: