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Salmonella Strain Contaminates Raw Tomatoes

June 09, 2008 03:15 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
U.S. health officials are investigating a salmonella outbreak connected with certain types of tomatoes. So far, people in 16 states are affected.

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Tracking down the source of the tomatoes blamed for this latest salmonella outbreak has proven difficult. Though, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes that raw red round, red Roma and red plum tomatoes are carrying the salmonella strain currently making consumers sick.

A substantial number of food poisoning cases were reported in Texas and New Mexico. As the outbreak spread to other states, the FDA expanded its salmonella warning to include the entire nation.

The outbreak has forced restaurant chains and grocers to pull affected tomatoes from their shelves, and sparked a flurry of criticism against the FDA. Carol Tucker Foreman, a former assistant agriculture secretary for President Carter, said, “food safety has always been the poor stepchild of the FDA’s responsibilities.”

In 2006, spinach contaminated with E. coli sickened dozens of people and killed three. In 2007, 1.4 million people were infected with salmonella; many cases were food-related. Now, government representatives are calling for food safety reforms.

Salmonella is a bacteria that lives in the intestinal tracts of people and animals. Humans usually get salmonella by eating food contaminated with animal feces.

Even in healthy people, salmonella is “not something that you’d want,” said David Acheson, director of the FDA’s Food Safety and Security Staff. “It’s going to land you with two or three days of a lot of discomfort.”

Salmonella infection can be prevented by frequent hand washing when handling food, cooking foods thoroughly and avoiding cross-contamination.

Headline Links: Salmonella spreading on tomatoes

Reactions: Restaurant menus and grocery stores affected

Opinion & Analysis: Calls for reform

Reference: Salmonella

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