As our Local, State and National Health authorities stumble to find the source of the Salmonella tainted tomatoes, I got an email from some nice person who found the following article about research our government has been doing on Salmonella and Tomatoes – Interesting read:

Animal and Environmental Impact on the Presence and Distribution of Salmonella spp. in Hydroponic Tomato Greenhouses

Submitted to: Journal of Food Protection
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 19, 2007
Publication Date: April 30, 2008
Citation: Orozco, L., Iturriaga, M., Tamplin, M., Fratamico, P.M., Call, J.E., Luchansky, J.B., Escartin, E. 2008. Animal and Environmental Impact on the Presence and Distribution of Salmonella spp. in Hydroponic Tomato Greenhouses. Journal of Food Protection. Vol.71(4) pg. 676-683.

Interpretive Summary: Tomatoes contaminated with Salmonella, a pathogenic food-borne bacterium, have been identified as vehicles of human diarrheal illness known as salmonellosis. Contamination of tomatoes can occur at several points from farm to table. Therefore, an investigation examining the sources of Salmonella contamination of tomatoes grown in hydroponic greenhouses in Queretaro Mexico was conducted. The presence of Salmonella was determined on samples of tomatoes, water, soil, sponges, gloves, animal feces, and from the hands and shoes of farm workers. Salmonella was detected in all types of samples, except workers¿ gloves and hands. Methods were used to determine the characteristics of the Salmonella bacteria isolated from the various sources, and a method known as pulsed field gel electrophoresis was used to track the spread of Salmonella contamination from the different sources to the tomatoes. Several types of Salmonella bacteria that have been associated with human illness were identified. Animals, including opposums, mice, and goats and workers’ shoes were identified as important sources of contamination of the tomatoes. Furthermore, there was a higher incidence of Salmonella in the greenhouses and on tomatoes during and after a flood, which resulted in water runoff entering the greenhouses. The study demonstrated that contamination of tomatoes grown in hydroponic greenhouses can occur from various sources, and critical control points from farm to table need to be identified to develop strategies to prevent contamination.

As I said before:

"Salmonella and tomatoes have an ongoing relationship," Marler said. "Sadly, it’s a long list of outbreaks. We’ve gotten better at tracing the serotypes and finding the source of the tainted food, but we have to do more: we have to prevent contaminated food from entering the food supply in the first place."

In 1990, a reported 174 salmonella javiana illnesses were linked to raw tomatoes as part of a four-state outbreak. In 1993, 84 reported cases of salmonella montevideo were part of a three-state outbreak. 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. All were linked to consumption of raw tomatoes.

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.