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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Salmonella Tomato Update – 17 States and 167 People Ill and Counting

According to the CDC, since mid-April, 167 persons infected with Salmonella Saintpaul with the same genetic fingerprint have been identified in 17 states: Arizona (12 persons), California (2), Colorado (1), Connecticut (1), Idaho (2), Illinois (27), Indiana (7), Kansas (5), Michigan (2), New Mexico (39), Oklahoma (3), Oregon (3), Texas (56), Utah (1), Virginia (2), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (3). These were identified because clinical laboratories in all states send Salmonella strains from ill persons to their State public health laboratory for characterization. Among the 73 persons who have been interviewed, illnesses began between April 16 and May 27, 2008. Patients range in age from 1 to 82 years; 49% are female. At least 23 persons were hospitalized.

I spoke with Mike Stobbe for his article: “Why did food sellers treat tomatoes like hot potatoes?”

It’s an expensive proposition to toss seemingly edible food, experts said. But McDonald’s and others had good reason to pull the tomatoes, said Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who for 15 years has specialized in food-contamination cases.

"The dilemma is if they don’t recall the tomatoes and someone gets sick, then they’re going to really look foolish," he said.

Recent news continues to point to Mexico as the likely source of the tainted-tomatoes.  Everyone is waiting for the FDA announcement.  I did make a passing mention on my hero, Perishable Pundit’s. blog where he was discussing why tomatoes are being removed from shelves, even though the risk is likely long past:

“The problem now is that the buyers and even the food safety people at these buying organizations lose control once FDA issues a statement. Then it puts things into legal parlance, and all the lawyers can think about is Bill Marler, plaintiff’s food safety lawyer par excellence, stroking his chin thoughtfully as he questions the CEO of one of these big chains while on the witness stand: “So, sir, you elected to buy tomatoes from Mexico even though you knew that the FDA, the official food safety expert of the federal government of these United States, had specifically advised you not to do so?”

  • Hi. I haven’t posted a comment on your blog before but your latest entry regarding the salmonella outbreak caught my attention. I was just at a meeting at which some unrelated business was discussed, but one of my neighbors brought up the tomato issue and he had some printed information from the CDC’s website. According to him all restaurants in our area have pulled tomato products from their menus. He also said that Jewel gets their tomatoes from Florida and these tomatoes were not affected in the outbreak, which I was unaware of. I am a frequent shopper at Jewel. I don’t like raw tomatoes anyway though, so I suppose that’s just as well given the severity of this outbreak.

  • Me Salmonella

    I don’t know about what’s on the shelves, but the fast food places still had bad tomatoes as of last week. I ate a burger with tomatoes on Friday 6th and was puking (and other things) till Monday. Now the puking has stopped, but the other is still going strong as of Thursday 12th.
    I lost 10 pounds in the fist 2 days, and I’ve only eaten 3 times since getting sick. Luckily I was very healthy before this. Like a fool I tried to go to work yesterday. It consisted of hurriedly working in between mad dashes to the restroom every few minutes, all day.