Texas Health officials today confirmed that a Houston cancer patient who died after being hospitalized with nausea, diarrhea and high fever had contracted Saint Paul salmonellosis, but stopped short of saying the debilitating illness caused his death. 

Salmonella Saint Paul — spread by eating some types of raw red tomatoes — has sickened 146 people in 16 states.  Confirmation that Raul Rivera, 67, also had contracted the disease brings the total of Harris County victims to 15.  Fifty-seven Texans have been sickened by the disease. 

The CDC estimates that 1.4 million cases occur annually (CDC, 2005, October 13).  Slightly more than 400 involved the Saintpaul strain.  Approximately 600 deaths are caused by Salmonella infections in the U.S. every year, accounting for 31 percent of all food-related deaths (CDC, 2005, October 13; MMWR Weekly, 2001).

As I said in the San Jose Mercury News article, “Restaurants, markets pull tomatoes in scare”

Salmonella is not as deadly as E. coli, but it can kill, said Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who specializes in winning settlements for victims of food poisoning.

"About 1.4 million Americans get salmonella poisoning every year, and about 76,000 get E. coli poisoning," he said. Salmonella also kills more people – particularly the elderly, about 600 a year, he said.

Rumor has it that Lou Dobbs might well be wrong to blame Mexico for the tainted-tomatoes.  The location of possible growers may well be home grown in Florida or Virginia.  We shall see.

And, in the Chicago Tribune article, “Salmonella scare holds the tomato”

The FDA hasn’t traced the origin of the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak, but a New Mexico Department of Health official told the Albuquerque Journal last week that preliminary information points to Mexico as the source.

From a growing-season perspective, that would make sense, some tomato safety experts say.

"I wouldn’t be surprised, because it’s the right time of the year," said Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who specializes in food contamination cases, including some involving tomatoes.