Health Department Warns of Salmonella Risk from Certain Tomatoes

For Immediate Release: June 9, 2008
Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON - The Vermont Department of Health is warning consumers about a nationwide salmonellosis outbreak linked to certain raw, red tomatoes, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

No one, to date, has been reported ill in Vermont.

Since mid-April, there have been 145 reported cases of salmonellosis nationwide caused by Salmonella Saintpaul, an uncommon form of  Salmonella. At least 23 hospitalizations have been reported.

FDA is advising people to only eat tomatoes that are not likely to be the source of the outbreak: cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine still attached and tomatoes grown at home.

The FDA also recommends eating raw red plum, red Roma, or red round tomatoes only if grown and harvested from the following areas that have not been associated with the outbreak: Arkansas; California; Georgia; Hawaii; North Carolina; South Carolina; Tennessee; Texas, and outside the United States; Belgium; Canada; Dominican Republic; Guatemala; Israel; Netherlands, and Puerto Rico.

If you are unsure of where the tomatoes are from, contact the store or place of purchase for that information.

Vermonters should also be aware that raw tomatoes are often used in the preparation of fresh salsa, guacamole, fillings for tortillas, and other dishes.

Salmonella is a bacteria that can cause a gastrointestinal infection known as salmonellosis. Most people infected with Salmonella are ill for four to seven days. The person may be ill enough to require hospitalization. Serious complications and death are rare and are more likely in the very young, the very old, and people who have other health problems.

Symptoms of Salmonella usually start from 12 to 72 hours after the bacteria has been swallowed. Symptoms include abdominal cramps, headache, fever, and severe watery diarrhea. Nausea and vomiting may also occur. People infected with Salmonella can have milder or no symptoms.

Restaurants, grocery stores, and food service operators have been advised by the FDA not to sell or serve raw red plum, red Roma, or red round tomatoes and products made from these types of tomatoes.

Vermonters who have tomatoes that could be affected or who have used them in recipes should immediately throw the tomatoes and food away.

If you develop symptoms of salmonellosis, contact your health care provider. If you have additional concerns, contact the FDA district office consumer complaint coordinator for the New England region at 1-800-891-8295.

For additional information about Salmonella, please read the Vermont Department of Health online Salmonella Fact Sheet.

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