Tomatoes called likely source in Salmonella outbreak

Jul 23, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – Tomatoes are the likely source of contamination in a Salmonella outbreak that now involves 289 cases in five states, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today.

The investigation "is focusing on certain pre-sliced tomatoes as the likely source of Salmonellosis in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia," the FDA stated in a news release.

The probe has centered on food sold at deli counters in Sheetz Gas Station stores in Pennsylvania and neighboring states. On Jul 19 Pennsylvania officials reported that Salmonella had been found on some Roma tomatoes from a Sheetz store, but later they said the Salmonella strain on the tomatoes differed from the strain found in patients.

But the FDA said today, "Many [of the illness cases] appear to be related to pre-sliced Roma tomatoes purchased at deli counters in Sheetz Gas Station stores between July 2nd through July 9th based on epidemiological investigation of the Salmonella cases."

The Roma tomatoes sold at Sheetz stores were distributed by Coronet Foods Inc., based in Wheeling, W.V., according to previous reports. The FDA did not say today whether it has traced any contaminated tomatoes back to farm sources.

Most of the cases in the outbreak have been in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Health Web site listed today's case count as 210.

Besides one bag of tomatoes, no other contaminated food samples in the outbreak had been found by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture as of today, according to Bobby McLean, director of the department's Bureau of Food Safety. He told CIDRAP News the department tested 235 samples from Sheetz stores and two samples of leftover food turned in by Sheetz customers. About seven additional samples from stores were still being tested, he said.

See also:

Jul 23 FDA news release
http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/2004/ucm108332.htm

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