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Tomato Salmonella Outbreak Still Growing

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The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) now says the number of people sickened by Salmonella tainted tomatoes has grown to 228, and is warning that contaminated tomatoes might still be on the market. The tomato Salmonella outbreak has sent 25 victims to the hospital. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also acknowledged for the first time yesterday that Salmonella from contaminated tomatoes played a role in the death of a cancer patient in Texas.

The tomato Salmonella outbreak began in mid-April, and at that time was centered mostly in New Mexico and Texas. Earlier this week, the FDA warned consumers nationwide to avoid eating raw red plum, red Roma and red round tomatoes and products containing them. Cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes and those sold with the vine have been deemed safe to eat.

The FDA is advising consumers to avoid the varieties of tomatoes involved in the Salmonella outbreak unless they can be absolutely certain they come from a geographic area included on the safe list listed on the agency’s website. If a grocery store or restaurant cannot say for sure where tomatoes came from, it is best not to take any chances. The FDA maintains that as long as illness reports are being made, there is still a chance that tainted tomatoes remain on the market.

Just a few days ago, officials from the FDA said they were getting closer to pinpointing the source of tomato Salmonella outbreak. But now, they have conceded that such statements might have been “too optimistic”. Not yet cleared as suspects in the outbreak are tomatoes from Mexico, and certain Florida counties.

Mexico, the largest exporter of fresh tomatoes to the U.S., supplies most of its tomatoes to the U.S. in the winter months, supplementing Florida’s output. The bulk of Salmonella cases linked to the tomatoes are located in the southwest United States.

Several counties in central Florida are still on the suspect list. Two other counties in southern Florida have also not been cleared – Collier and Dade. Dade County accounts for 10 percent of the Florida tomato crop.

However, tomatoes from many other Florida counties have been deemed safe by the FDA. Those counties include Jackson, Gadsden, Leon, Jefferson, Madison, Suwannee, Hamilton, Hillsborough, Polk, Manatee, Hardee, DeSoto, Sarasota, Highlands, Pasco, Sumter, Citrus, Hernando, and Charlotte.

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