Tomatoes Tossed Amid Salmonella Scare

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A new round of food poisoning has some questioning the safety of their salad and hamburger ingredients. Uncooked tomatoes are now believed to be carrying a dangerous strain of salmonella known as "saintpaul."

The discovery has compelled some food stores and restaurants to pull tomatoes from their shelves.

The Food and Drug Administration says it's searching for the the source of the outbreak.

"We are working hard and fast on this one and hope to have something as quickly as possible," FDA spokeswoman Kimberly Rawlings said.

The FDA has not linked the outbreak to specific types of tomatoes, but warn that raw "red plum," "red Roma" or "round red" tomatoes should be avoided.

Since mid-April, 145 people have become infected, with 23 requiring hospitalization, the Center for Disease Control reported.

Paul Rivera, a 67-year-old cancer patient in Texas is thought to be the first death associated with a salmonella outbreak linked to tomatoes. 

While his death has been officially attributed to cancer, the Houston health department says the salmonella strain was a contributing factor.

Officials warn the outbreak could become more widespread.

"This could affect the whole country," J.D. Hanson of the Center on Food Safety said. "We're talking tomatoes grown by large commercial firms that get shipped everywhere."

Dallas County's Dr. John Carlo said, "The elderly and the very young are also at higher risk for having invasive salmonella infections and these can be very life threatening,"

So far, the outbreak has hit 16 states from California to Connecticut.

As a result, fast food giant McDonald's along says it will not sell tomatoes until the issue is cleared.

Burger King, Texas Roadhouse, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Taco Bell, Outback Steakhouse, Kroger, Winn Dixie, and Wal Mart have all followed suit.

The FDA says consumers can continue to eat cherry and grape tomatoes, as well as tomatoes with the vine still attached.

Tomatoes from the following states are NOT linked to the salmonella outbreak:

  • California
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Dominican Republic
  • Guatemala
  • Israel
  • Netherlands
  • Puerto Rico

 For an update on the list of safe tomato states, click here.

Salmonella symptoms include stomach pains, fever, chills, nausea and vomiting. Children and the elderly are prone to the illness.

 For more on salmonella visit the CDC Web site.

Sources: Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, Food and Drug Administration, CNN

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