Hot tomato

Officials from the FDA and CDC told reporters at a press conference on Monday that they have found a cluster of nine cases of Salmonella poisoning from tomatoes that could lead them to the source of the outbreak, which has sickened 277 people in 28 states since April. "It's essentially a very solid lead for us," said David Acheson, associate commissioner for Foods, FDA, who explained that the cluster is confined to one single geographic location and all the sickened individuals appear to have consumed similar types of tomatoes -- raw plum, Roma and round. Aggressive traceback measures are being taken by FDA/CDC.   “Grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and tomatoes still attached to the vine have not been linked to the outbreak and are okay to consume, as are other tomatoes from excluded areas listed on our website, “ said Acheson. FDA has identified dozens of states and countries whose producers' tomatoes are not linked to the outbreak -- primarily because they were not supplying fruit during the time when people were becoming ill. On the safe list are California, a major producer and northern Florida. Baja California in Mexico, which harvested 2.3 million metric tons of tomatoes last year, accounting for 84 percent of tomatoes the U.S. imports, was also certified safe. Salmonella Saintpaul, the bacterial strain responsible for the current outbreak, is uncommon, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control which sees about 400 Saintpaul infections in humans each year. The Mexican government said last week that Salmonella Saintpaul has never been found in their country. “No processed foods containing tomatoes have been linked to the outbreak,” said Acheson. FDA