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CDC Warns of Tainted Tomatoes

Tomatoes Spread Salmonella Food Poisoning in 9 States So Far
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 3, 2008 -- Tomatoes tainted with salmonella have sickened dozens of people in nine states, the CDC and FDA warn.

Roma and red round tomatoes appear to be the source of salmonella food poisonings that have sickened 21 people in Texas and 19 people in New Mexico. All of these people ate raw tomatoes.

At least 30 other people have come down with the same salmonella strain in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, and Utah. The CDC is investigating whether these cases, too, are linked to tomatoes.

So far, no deaths have been reported.

People began falling ill on April 23. The CDC says the outbreak is ongoing.

The CDC warns consumers in New Mexico and Texas to avoid Roma or red round tomatoes if they want to lower their risk of salmonella infection. In these states, elderly people, infants, and people with impaired immune systems should avoid these tomatoes until the outbreak is over.

The FDA says cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine attached, and homegrown tomatoes are not implicated in the outbreak.

The CDC also advises:

  • Don't buy bruised or damaged tomatoes.
  • Thoroughly wash all tomatoes under running water.
  • All cut, peeled, or cooked tomatoes should be refrigerated within two hours or thrown out.
  • Tomatoes should be kept separate from raw meats, raw seafood, and other produce.
  • Wash cutting boards, utensils, dishes, and countertops with hot water and soap when switching between food products.

People infected with salmonella usually get diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after consuming a tainted product. Illness usually lasts four to seven days. Diagnosis depends on culture of a stool sample.

Most people recover without treatment. However, some people may develop severe infections that can be life threatening. Antibiotic treatment is usually necessary for severe salmonella infection.

The CDC and the FDA will be providing updates as the outbreak continues.

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