In a press briefing today, David Acheson, M.D., the FDA’s associate commissioner for foods (a.k.a., “Food Czar”), said that evidence available thus far suggests that a single geographic region (e.g., Mexico or Florida) is the source of salmonella SaintPaul that has contaminated tomatoes and resulted in 228 cases of salmonellosis in 23 states. Dr. Acheson said, tha the "unique genetic fingerprint" of the salmonella strain under investigation makes it highly unlikely that the contaminant will be found in more than one locale. However, the FDA still has not traced the pathogen back to that single source, although he said the most likely regions were central and southern Florida and Mexico.
If I were Food Czar, I would ask the following questions:
1. Why did it take the CDC so long to figure out there was a tomato outbreak?
2. Why does it take so long for FDA to figure out where the tainted-tomatoes originated?
3. What if this was a bio-terrorism case instead of a likely food-handling error?
FDA officials say two outlets of the chain served people sickened in the outbreak. They decline to name the chain or the restaurant locations, citing confidentiality. Nine people sickened by a salmonella outbreak linked to fresh tomatoes ate at two restaurants from the same chain, federal officials confirmed today. The chain’s name and restaurant location are confidential, said David Acheson, the associate commissioner of foods for the Food and Drug Administration, during a conference call with reporters. A spokesman for the agency also declined to provide the time frame for the cases — or say whether the restaurants were in the same state. However, according to the FDA, some of the sick ate tomatoes bought at supermarkets and fixed at home. Interestingly, we have received about 50 phone calls and emails from people who believe that they have been sickened by salmonella. Some report speaking to local and state health departments and being told that they were sickened by salmonella SaintPaul. Several restaurants have been named. Perhaps by the weekend we will have figured it out.