The CDC announced today, in collaboration with public health officials in several states, the Indian Health Service, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) an ongoing multistate outbreak of human salmonella serotype Saintpaul infections. All seem to be linked to the consumption of Tomatoes.
Since late April, 68 persons infected with salmonella Saintpaul with the same genetic fingerprint have been identified in Texas (35 persons) and New Mexico (33 persons). In addition, 29 persons with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Saintpaul have been reported since mid-April in residents of Arizona (6 persons), Colorado (1), Idaho (2), Illinois (12), Indiana (1), Kansas (3), Utah (1), Virginia (1), and Wisconsin (2).
Salmonella is one of the most common enteric (intestinal) infections in the United States. Salmonellosis (the disease caused by salmonella) is the second most common foodborne illness after Campylobacter infection. It is estimated that 1.4 million cases of salmonellosis occur each year in the U.S.; 95% of those cases are foodborne-related. Approximately 220 of each 1000 cases result in hospitalization and eight of every 1000 cases result in death. About 500 to 1,000 or 31% of all food-related deaths are caused by salmonella infections each year. Salmonellosis is more common in the warmer months of the year.
As I have posted before, salmonella and tomatoes have an ongoing relationship. In 1990, a reported 174 Salmonella javiana illnesses, as part of a four state outbreak, were linked to raw tomatoes. In 1993, 84 reported cases of Salmonella Montevideo were part of a three state outbreak that was linked to raw tomatoes. In January 1999, Salmonella Baildon was recovered from 86 infected persons in eight states. In July 2002, an outbreak of Salmonella javiana occurred associated with attendance at the 2002 U.S. Transplant Games held in Orlando, Florida during late June of that year. Ultimately, the outbreak investigation identified 141 ill persons in 32 states who attended the games.
During August and September 2002, a Salmonella Newport outbreak affected the East Coast. Ultimately, over 404 confirmed cases were identified, in over 22 states. Epidemiological analysis indicated that tomatoes were the most likely vehicle, and were traced back to the same tomato packing facility in the mid-Atlantic region.
In early July 2004, as many as 564 confirmed cases of salmonellosis associated with consumption of contaminated tomatoes purchased at Sheetz Convenience Store were reported in five states, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, and Virginia. Seventy percent were associated with tomatoes in food prepared at Sheetz convenience stores.
In 2006 two outbreaks of Salmonella-tainted tomatoes where reported by the FDA. One was blamed for nearly 100 illnesses in 19 states. FDA also traced tomatoes involved in another outbreak involving 183 people in 21 states.