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1167 Sickened by Salmonella St. Paul

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At least 1,167 people have been sickened by a Salmonella outbreak, the source of which remains a mystery. The slow pace of the Salmonella investigation has frustrated consumers, as well as the tomato growers whose products were once considered prime suspects in the outbreak.

In June, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a health alert, advising consumers to avoid eating certain raw red plum, red Roma, or round red tomatoes or any products containing them unless they are known to have come from a geographic area cleared of any connection to the outbreak. But even after the suspect tomatoes were removed from stores and restaurants, people continued to get sick. In fact, the most recent illness was reported as late as July 4th. Last week, the FDA said it was expanding its Salmonella investigation to include fresh jalapeno and Serrano peppers, and fresh cilantro.

But the FDA has not modified its advice on tomatoes, something that has angered tomato growers. Last week, industry representatives requested that the FDA rescind the tomato warning, and they have gone to Congress seeking compensation or their losses, which are estimated to exceed $100 million.

Tomato growers in Mexico are also angry about the toll the FDA alert has taken on their business. According to The Washington Post, a team of Mexican health and agriculture officials is scheduled to meet with FDA officials in Washington to demand that Mexican tomatoes be cleared of any suspicion in the outbreak. Mexico said last week that its own tests found no salmonella in Mexican tomatoes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), illnesses have been reported in Alabama (2 persons), Arkansas (14), Arizona (54), California (9), Colorado (15), Connecticut (4), Florida (2), Georgia (28), Idaho (6), Illinois (104), Indiana (16), Iowa (2), Kansas (18), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (1), Maine (1), Maryland (32), Massachusetts (26), Michigan (21), Minnesota (19), Mississippi (2), Missouri (17), New Hampshire (4), Nevada (11), New Jersey (12), New Mexico (102), New York (32), North Carolina (22), Ohio (10), Oklahoma (25), Oregon (10), Pennsylvania (12), Rhode Island (3), South Carolina (2), Tennessee (8), Texas (449), Utah (2), Virginia (31), Vermont (2), Washington (17), West Virginia (1), Wisconsin (13), and the District of Columbia (1). Four ill persons are reported from Canada; all four appear to have been infected while traveling in the United States.

At least 220 people have been hospitalized. A man in his eighties who died in Texas from cardiopulmonary failure was infected with Salmonella at the time of his death. A man in his sixties who died in Texas from cancer also had the infection when he died. The CDC says that the Salmonella infection may have contributed to both deaths.

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