Tomatoes linked to Salmonella Saintpaul
Local store removes potentially dangerous products from shelves
By LPR Staff
More than 40 patients in nine states over the last two months have one thing in common, apart from their diagnosis of Salmonella Saintpaul infections – a diet that included raw tomatoes prior to their illness.
According to information released on Tues
day by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), consumers are urged to take caution when preparing and eating raw tomatoes, particularly those of the Roma and “large round” varieties purchased in stores. Tomatoes seem to be the common thread linking 40 or more cases of Salmonella Saintpaul, including 21 in Texas. One such case was diagnosed in Hays County, but as of Tuesday, Monte Kay Frederick, the DSHS Community Nurse for Caldwell County, said she was unaware of any cases in Caldwell County.
“The information is relatively new, and most of the results are not in yet,” she said late Tuesday. “The priority of the Department and the CDC is to go ahead and get the information out to the public that we know so far so they can be at least aware of it.”
Additional cases of the bacteria strain were detected in patients in Harris, Fort Bend, Dallas, Tarrant and Cameron Counties.
Frederick said neither CDC or DSHS could link the tomatoes to any particular store or packing plant, but they were reasonably sure the problem is limited to Roma and large round tomatoes.
“Home-growns are fine,” she said. “And there isn”t any problem with cherry, grape or tomatoes-on-the-vine.”
Late Tuesday, H-E-B’s corporate offices made the decision to enact a precautionary recall, removing the potentially tainted items from their shelves. Though no H-E-B customers reported an illness connected to tomatoes, the grocery conglomerate decided it is better to be safe.
“Ensuring the safety and quality of products sold in our stores is a top priority for H-E-B,” said Winell Herron, H-E-B Group Vice President of Public Affairs and Diversity. “We continue to monitor the situation closely and will return the product to our stores once it is absolutely safe for our customers.”
Frederick recommended consumers make sure to wash all produce well before eating, but said customers who are concerned or at higher risk should not eat tomatoes raw. In addition, a statement released by DSHS on Tuesday extended the warning to people with increased risk of severe infection, including infants, the elderly and those with impaired immune systems.
Consumers are advised to:
-Cook tomatoes at 145 degrees Farenheit for at least 15 seconds to kill the Salmonella Saintpaul bacteria;
-Avoid purchasing or eating bruised or damaged tomatoes and discard any that appear spoiled;
-Thoroughly wash all tomatoes under running water;
-Keep tomatoes that will be eaten raw separate from raw meats, raw seafood and other raw produce;
-Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops with hot water and soap when switching between types of food products; and
-Wash hands thoroughly and often with soap and warm water, especially after going to the restroom, before preparing or serving food and after changing a diaper.
The CDC has not called for a recall or product removal at this time, but does not rule out the possibility, pending results of the investigation.
Symptoms of Salmonella Saintpaul infection include headache, stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea and sometimes, vomiting. The illness normally lasts between four and seven days, and most people recover without treatment. In severe cases, however, patients require hospitalization. People exhibiting these symptoms should drink plenty of water, rest and visit a health care professional as soon as possible.