Tomatoes in Restaurants Linked to Salmonella Typhimurium Outbreak
Nov 5, 2006 - 4:23:37 AM

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced the results of an investigation by state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigators, which found consuming tomatoes in restaurants as the cause of illnesses in the Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak. To date, 21 states have reported 183 cases of illnesses to the CDC.

Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses.

Based on information currently available from the CDC, the investigation shows a peak in cases of illness in late September. This suggests that the outbreak is not ongoing. The agency believes that the tomatoes that caused the illnesses have at this point been consumed, destroyed or thrown out because they are perishable. Therefore, FDA does not believe a consumer warning about tomatoes on store shelves is warranted at this time.

FDA has initiated a traceback of these tomatoes and continues its close collaboration with the CDC and state and local authorities to identify the source of contamination on tomatoes in this outbreak. In particular, FDA is working closely with the states of Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, since groups of illnesses were specifically reported in these states.

Investigations of foodborne illness usually begin at the local health department level. A variety of scientific and technological methods to trace the source of reported illnesses are used. Modern technologies, such as PulseNet (the network of public health laboratories that performs "DNA fingerprinting"), have greatly improved the speed and precision of these types of investigations.

In light of recent outbreaks, FDA continues to emphasize consumer advice to reduce the risk of foodborne illness, including Salmonella-related illness, from fresh produce.

Tomatoes have been linked to 7 salmonella outbreaks since 1990.

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