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Akron Univ. School of Law

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Friday, July 18, 2008

F.D.A. Lifts Tomato Warning

The New York Times reports that the Food and Drug Administration has lifted the warning against eating raw tomatoes, one of the foods attributed to the salmonella outbreak that began in April.  Bina Venkataraman writes,

Tomato1The Food and Drug Administration revoked its warning against eating certain kinds of raw tomatoes Thursday, even though officials said they had yet to pinpoint the source of the nation’s largest foodborne outbreak in the last decade.

Meanwhile, the agency continues to advise the elderly, infants and those with weak immune systems not eat raw jalapeño or serrano peppers.

Tomatoes believed to be responsible for initial illnesses in the salmonella outbreak that began in April are no longer on the market, officials said in a telephone press conference. For more than a month, federal investigators have been testing tomatoes, with a focus on those grown in Florida and Mexico, to find the origin of the contamination. The agency had warned consumers to avoid certain raw red plum, red Roma and red round tomatoes and products containing them.

“We found no evidence of Salmonella Saintpaul, the outbreak strain, during those investigations,” said Dr. David Acheson, the agency’s associate commissioner for foods.

And jalapeño peppers, although they have been linked to some cases, do not explain all of the illnesses, said Dr. Robert Tauxe of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Earlier epidemiological studies linked tomatoes to the salmonella outbreak that has now sickened more than 1,200 people in 42 states and the District of Columbia. Officials said Thursday that the outbreak was ongoing, but appeared to have reached a plateau in mid-June with 33 people becoming ill per day.

The F.D.A. is sending investigators to a packing plant in Mexico that they suspect could be the site of the contamination, Dr. Acheson told reporters. A single packing shed or irrigation system could be responsible for contaminating different types of produce with the bacteria, he added.

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