Salmonella Cases Climb to 383
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the number of people sickened by salmonella linked to raw tomatoes jumped to 383 people in 30 states, more than numbers reported two days earlier.
The CDC said the higher numbers didn’t signal a new outbreak but instead reflected greater testing and reporting by health-care professionals. Some states, it said, had increased surveillance after the outbreak started in April and laboratories had finally completed testing of samples submitted earlier.
Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the CDC’s division that handles food-borne diseases, warned the number of cases could continue to increase. “It’s really too early to call the peak, and we certainly cannot say that it’s over,” he said on a conference call with reporters. “We really can’t predict what the final numbers will be and what the curve will look like.”
The outbreak began April 10, and the last case occurred June 5, he said. On Monday, the CDC reported 277 people in 28 states and the District of Columbia had been sickened. The CDC earlier said that salmonella may have contributed to the death of a Texas patient in his 60s. At least 48 people have been hospitalized, and the outbreak has affected patients ranging from infants to people as old as 88 years old.
The outbreak of the rare and virulent Saintpaul strain of salmonella has stumped investigators as they try to pinpoint the source of the contamination. The Food and Drug Administration has said Mexico and Florida are on top of the list of places where the tainted tomatoes were likely grown.
David Acheson, the FDA’s associate commissioner for foods, said during the call that Mexican authorities have found the Saintpaul strain in Mexico, but that doesn’t mean the tainted tomatoes were grown there, as the strain emerges in the U.S. every year, though in a small number of cases.
Dr. Acheson said that tomatoes are one of the hardest things to trace from farm to table.
Red plum, red Roma and round red tomatoes have been linked to the outbreak, and the FDA has said those shouldn’t be consumed raw. The FDA has said some types of fresh tomatoes are safe to eat: grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, tomatoes sold on the vine and all varieties of homegrown tomatoes. In addition, the agency has said tomatoes grown in northern Florida, Mexico’s Baja California region and all other parts of the U.S. are safe.
Most major restaurants have put tomatoes back on the menu. Dr. Acheson said it is good to give consumer choices but warned that restaurants should make sure the tomatoes they buy come from areas that aren’t implicated in the outbreak.