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Eating Raw Tomatoes Cause of Salmonella Outbreak

Four outbreaks in 21 states caused 459 cases of the disease in 2005-2006

FRIDAY, Sept. 7 (HealthDay News) -- The 2005-2006 U.S. outbreak of Salmonella infections was caused by consumption of raw tomatoes in restaurants, according to a report published in the Sept. 7 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Sally A. Bidol, M.P.H., of the Michigan Department of Community Health in Lansing, Mich., and colleagues report that there were four large outbreaks of Salmonella in July to November 2005 and November to December 2005, and in July to November 2006 and September to October 2006. In all, these outbreaks spread across 21 states and caused 459 culture-confirmed cases of Salmonella poisoning. There were 58 hospitalizations but no deaths.

The tomatoes in question were grown in Florida, Ohio and Virginia. The sources of infection included animal feces contamination of irrigation ponds near tomato fields and contamination during the packing process.

"Current knowledge of mechanisms for tomato contamination and methods of eradication of Salmonella in tomatoes is incomplete; the agricultural industry, food safety agencies, and public health agencies should make tomato-safety research a priority," the authors write.

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