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Massachusetts Salmonella Cases Linked To National Outbreak Involving Tomatoes

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) today announced that twelve cases of salmonella in Massachusetts have been linked to the nationwide outbreak associated with certain types of raw tomatoes.

These cases were identified through routine surveillance involving DNA matching of the outbreak strain with samples submitted by healthcare providers throughout Massachusetts. The strain of salmonella identified is Salmonella Saintpaul, a specific sub-type of the bacteria. To date, more than 500 cases linked to certain tomatoes have been reported nationwide. Health officials in New York and New Hampshire have also identified cases in those states in recent days.

Breakdown of Cases

The individuals listed below reported becoming sick between May 30 and June 8. At least two of the cases have required hospitalization.

County - Age - Sex

Middlesex - 33 years - Female
Middlesex - 39 years - Female
Middlesex - 5 years - Female
Middlesex - 29 years - Female
Worcester - 38 years - Male
Plymouth - 23 years - Female
Norfolk - 36 years - Male
Norfolk - 26 years - Female
Norfolk - 18 years - Female
Norfolk - 23 years - Male
Suffolk - 19 years - Male
Suffolk - 20 years - Male

Not all tomatoes are affected by the outbreak — only certain tomatoes from certain states. Tomatoes grown in Massachusetts are considered safe to eat by the FDA.

The FDA has advised consumers to avoid certain raw red plum, raw red Roma, raw red round tomatoes and products containing these tomatoes. Tomatoes that are safe to eat include cherry, grape, tomatoes sold with the vine still attached, and tomatoes grown at home. These are not likely to be tainted with salmonella.

The FDA Advisory

Consumers, restaurants and other food establishments should continue to check the FDA website below for a list of states affected by the outbreak, along with a list of locations where tomatoes not affected by the outbreak are grown and harvested.

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FDA Information About How To Ensure Tomatoes Are Safe to Eat

How can consumers tell where a tomato was grown, harvested, or packed?

Consumers can ask retailers (for example, store and restaurant personnel) where their raw red plum tomatoes, raw red Roma tomatoes, and raw red round tomatoes were produced. If consumers have any doubts about where these types of tomatoes were grown, harvested, or packed, they should discard them. Because grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached are not implicated in this outbreak — regardless of where they are from — it's not necessary to ask where they were grown, harvested, or packed.

Will washing the tomatoes identified in this outbreak make them safe to eat?

Consumers are advised not to try to wash raw red plum, red Roma, or raw red round tomatoes that are implicated in the outbreak. Consumers should throw these tomatoes out. Once produce is contaminated with pathogens such as Salmonella, the contamination is difficult to remove.

Will peeling the tomatoes implicated in this outbreak make them safe to eat?

Consumers are advised not to try to peel raw red plum, red Roma, or raw red round tomatoes that have not been ruled out as the source of the outbreak. Consumers should throw these tomatoes out. Peeling a tomato that is contaminated on the outside would be likely to spread the contamination to the inside. Also, if the contamination is already on the inside, peeling will not remove it.

Can cooking tomatoes eliminate Salmonella?

Consumers should not attempt to cook the tomatoes involved in this outbreak in an effort to kill Salmonella. Handling tomatoes contaminated with Salmonella can spread the bacterium to anything the handler touches, including hands, kitchen utensils, cutting boards, sinks, and other foods. Cooking tomatoes in the home will not ensure that Salmonella is eliminated.

Are canned tomatoes and processed foods containing tomatoes safe for consumers during this outbreak?

Consumers may continue to buy and eat canned or bottled (that is, processed) red plum, red Roma, and red round tomatoes and canned or bottled foods containing these or any other types of tomatoes if they were processed by a commercial food-processing facility. A few examples are the canned tomatoes and canned or bottled tomato juice and spaghetti sauce found in grocery stores.