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Wash Your Tomatoes!

Posted by feww on June 4, 2008

Salmonella Strikes Again!

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration revealed 57 reported cases of poisoning caused by an uncommon strand of Salmonella bacteria called SaintPaul in Texas and New Mexico since late April. Illnesses were blamed on eating raw tomatoes.

Updated: June 7, 2008

States with persons with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Saintpaul, by state of residence and onset of illness, April to June 2008.


Since mid-April, 145 persons infected with Salmonella Saintpaul with the same genetic fingerprint have been identified 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). 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 73 persons who have been interviewed, illnesses began between April 16 and May 27, 2008. Patients range in age from 1 to 82 years; 49% are female. At least 23 persons were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. (Image and Caption: CDC. Update: June 7, 2008 )

People in 16 States Have Been Infected

[See above image and caption for update added June 7, 2008] 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.


Salmonella Bacteria

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,
    • 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
    • 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:

Information on the safe handling of produce can be found at:

Related Links:

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