So what happened?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says a cluster of nine cases of salmonella poisoning in a single geographic location, may lead to the source of an outbreak – it appears that all of the sickened individuals ate similar tomatoes.
The cluster is possibly nine cases reported by the Chicago Department of Health where the victims ate at two restaurants from the same chain but food safety officials continue to maintain that the outbreak is not linked to a single restaurant or grocery store chain.
Tomatoes from dozens of states and countries whose producers have not been linked to the outbreak have been identified by the FDA and include California, northern Florida and Baja California in Mexico.
The outbreak has been linked by health officials to raw plum, Roma and round tomatoes and consumers are warned to avoid those tomatoes if they come from producers not yet cleared by FDA.
At the time of the initial outbreak the major tomato suppliers were in Mexico and Florida and this has been the main focus of investigators.
According to the CDC the bacterial strain responsible for the current outbreak, Salmonella serotype Saintpaul, is uncommon and last year there were only 25 reported cases of the saintpaul strain with the same genetic fingerprint as that seen in the current outbreak – Mexican officials say Salmonella Saintpaul has never been found in Mexico.
Salmonella bacteria are often the culprit in food-borne illnesses and symptoms include fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain and generally appear within 12 hours to 72 hours of eating tainted food.
It has been weeks since the first case of salmonella contamination was reported. Things seem to be alright now and restaurants are starting to serve tomatoes again. But I am sure those 227 people who have fallen ill because of the contaminated tomatoes will not be eating tomatoes anytime soon.
Photos courtesy of Zeetz Jones