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article imageBaja California Tomatoes Cleared in Salmonella case

By Bob Ewing     Jun 17, 2008 in Food
Tomatoes from one part of Mexico, Baja California have been cleared of suspicion in the outbreak of salmonella-tainted tomatoes
The quest for the source of the salmonella infected tomatoes has eliminated Baja California as a suspect. A total of 277 people, which is 49 more than were reported last week, have become ill.
The outbreak is not yet over.
Arkansas, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina and Ohio and Washington, D.C., have reported patients, adding to the 23 states from last week. It is possible that some of the infections happened when the people were travelling.
A cluster of nine illnesses among patrons of an unidentified restaurant remain the best lead. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigators were at work tracing records of the restaurant's various suppliers, part of the painstaking work of cross-checking common suppliers for other parts of the country where people got sick.
Consumers nationwide are being urged to avoid raw red plum, red Roma or red round tomatoes unless they were grown in specific states or countries that FDA has cleared of suspicion. Check FDA's Web site for an updated list.
Grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached are considered to be safe.
Central and southern Florida and parts of Mexico were supplying most of the tomatoes sold when the salmonella outbreak began in early April. This means that the FDA believes they are the leading suspects. Tomatoes from northern Florida are in the clear because they weren't being harvested that long ago, and those tomatoes are arriving in stores now, often with state-issued certificates guaranteeing they weren't implicated.
Baja California was cleared over the weekend. The harvest there began April 26 and the earliest known patient in the salmonella outbreak fell sick on April 10, FDA food safety Chief Dr. David Acheson said Monday.
Testing of tomatoes, including those from various parts of Mexico, hasn't yet turned up any salmonella.
Mexican Economy Secretary Eduardo Sojo has stated that the Mexican government might seek compensation for the Mexican producers who are losing millions of dollars because they can't export to the U.S.
"What we want is to get at the truth .... If the truth is that our country isn't responsible for making people sick in the U.S., then they need to lift the restriction on Mexican tomatoes," Sojo said.
He added: "If this isn't resolved soon, the impact on the national industry will be severe."
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