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The Food and Drug Administration said Saturday it was expanding its warning to consumers nationwide that a salmonellosis outbreak has been linked to consumption of certain raw red plum, red Roma, and red round tomatoes, and products containing these raw, red tomatoes, as evidence of the outbreak spread to 16 states.
The government agency said consumers should not eat raw red Roma, raw red plum, raw red round tomatoes, or products that contain these types of raw red tomatoes unless they can be sure the tomatoes are from Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Belgium, Canada, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Israel, Netherlands, or Puerto Rico.
FDA told consumer to contact the store where they bought the tomatoes to confirm the products’ origin. “Consumers should continue to eat cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached, or tomatoes grown at home,” FDA said.
FDA said its recommendation do not apply to cherry, grape, and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached, from any source.
FDA recommends that retailers, restaurateurs, and food service operators not offer for sale and service raw red Roma, raw red plum, and raw red round tomatoes unless they are from the sources listed above. Cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached, may continue to be offered from any source.
Since mid April, there have been 145 reported cases of salmonellosis caused by Salmonella Saintpaul nationwide, including at least 23 hospitalizations. States reporting illnesses linked to the outbreak include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. Salmonella Saintpaul is an uncommon type of Salmonella.
FDA said it recognizes that the source of the contaminated tomatoes may be limited to a single grower or packer, or tomatoes from a specific geographic area. It also said it is aware that there are many tomato crops across the country and in foreign countries that will be ready for harvest or will become ready in the coming months.
“In order to ensure that consumers can continue to enjoy tomatoes that are safe to eat, FDA is working diligently with the states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Indian Health Service, and various food industry trade associations to quickly determine the source of the tomatoes associated with the outbreak,” the agency said.
The United Fresh Produce Association, meanwhile, was warning produce industry members that the public relations fallout was likely to mushroom. “The FDA's national consumer advisory will likely generate even more media than we've already seen,” said Amy Philpott, communications v.p. for the trade association in the alert. “If you would like, feel free to forward media calls about the outbreak to me or Dr. David Gombas, or contact me if you would like general media messaging points.
United Fresh said it has established a Web page to provide the latest information about the Salmonella saintpaul outbreak, by clicking here