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More Foods Eyed in Salmonella Outbreak

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The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has begun testing other foods in an attempt to find out what has caused a Salmonella outbreak that has sickened 860 people.  The FDA originally said some types of tomatoes were to blame. But even after restaurants and grocery stores removed the suspect tomatoes from their inventories, people continued to get sick from Salmonella. Of the 869 illnesses now confirmed, 179 occurred in June – after the tomato warning was issued. The last illness occurred on June 20.

Last Friday, David Acheson, associate commissioner with the FDA, said that of 1700 domestic and international tomato samples collected for investigators so far, none has tested positive for Salmonella St. Paul, the strain involved in this outbreak. That, coupled with the fact that people are still getting sick, means that whatever caused the outbreak is still in circulation.

Despite all the uncertainty, the FDA is still sticking by its tomato warning. And it is still telling consumers that it is safe to eat grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached, as well as tomatoes grown in areas the agency has deemed safe. The FDA’s Acheson said the agency’s advice to consumers will not change unless the investigation turns up other suspects.

There are a few possible scenarios that could explain the continuing illnesses. Tomatoes and other produce could have picked up the Salmonella at common packing warehouses or storage areas. If that is the case, even tomatoes the FDA is calling “safe” could still be at risk if they passed through such a facility.  Produce and tomatoes could have also been grown in adjacent fields that were contaminated with Salmonella as a result of animal waste runoff.

Over the weekend, the CDC began interviewing those sickened in June to see if they could come up with other clues about the source of the Salmonella outbreak.

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