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Florida Growers Angered Over Salmonella Probe

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Florida tomato growers say it is now clear that their products have played no role in this summer’s massive Salmonella outbreak, and want the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to declare all Florida tomatoes safe. Florida growers estimate that they face losses that could range from $600 million to $700 million. They also need to start replanting for next season, but don’t want to do that until the FDA gives their crops a green light.

Last month, the FDA issued a health alert, warning consumers to avoid certain tomatoes, including those grown in several Florida counties. But the FDA has never proven that tomatoes were to blame for the multi-state Salmonella outbreak. Growers in Florida say the affected areas have not shipped tomatoes in more than two months. Yet, the number of people reporting Salmonella infections continues to grow on a daily basis. In fact, the health officials say the last illnesses occurred on July 4th. Florida growers see that as pretty clear evidence that something else is making people sick.

The FDA thinks so too, and last week expanded its Salmonella probe to include jalapeno and Serrano peppers, fresh cilantro and other foods served with tomatoes. But so far, the FDA has not changed its advice on tomatoes.

At last count, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said that 1,196 people have been infected with Salmonella St. Paul, a rare strain of the bacteria. States reporting illnesses include (9), Colorado (16), Connecticut (4), Florida (2), Georgia (28), Idaho (6), Illinois (113), Indiana (16), Iowa (2), Kansas (18), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (1), Maine (1), Maryland (32), Massachusetts (26), Michigan (24), Minnesota (22), Mississippi (2), Missouri (17), New Hampshire (5), Nevada (11), New Jersey (12), New Mexico (102), New York (32), North Carolina (23), Ohio (10), Oklahoma (25), Oregon (10), Pennsylvania (12), Rhode Island (3), South Carolina (2), Tennessee (9), Texas (456), Utah (2), Virginia (31), Vermont (2), Washington (17), West Virginia (1), Wisconsin (13), and the District of Columbia (1). Five ill persons are reported from Canada; four appear to have been infected while traveling in the United States, and one individual remains under investigation.

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